Ready for Camp?

Since it so happens that my deadline for writing the next draft of Rogue Sorcery coincides completely with the deadline for Camp NaNoWriMo, I have decided to officially participate in it, even if it’s not a full rewrite and definitely not a first draft. To compensate, my goal is 80k, not 50k. In order to prove that I am sometimes a responsible adult I won’t even make any super-ambitious goals this time around. Mostly because I cannot bend the laws of time to my will yet. (I wish!)

Perhaps participating in Camp will help me stick to my deadlines. Because so far this deadline thing isn’t going very well. (I’ve only committed myself to following the main deadlines of my plan, right? Right?) I am supposed to have revised the ending of Rogue Sorcery fully by April 1st, but considering I also have two translations due before the weekend… Yeah. No.

I can plot an ending by then, no problem, but a good one? That’s a bit more problematic. Same goes for figuring out the problems with the old one. Currently it’s a bit too “whoops, look who happened to be in the right place at the right time!”. I feel a bit hesitant to change things around too much at this point, especially since the rather vague changes I have in mind will add a lot more words, but I might have to. The main question is: Will they all end up in the same place in the end as I had planned (which is a bit too convenient, really), or will they actually do stuff separately? But then what will Group B do (the ones who are not fighting the main baddie)? Are they even travelling? Perhaps something happens in Village A that means they will go back there? But then who does that? Does it have something to do with the plot in Forgotten Sorcery? Or perhaps C’s background, which has been sort of an unresolved issue? Do they even go to Fortress A? Isn’t it a bit too convenient that they reach the city where Group A is exactly at the right time?

Clearly there are some issues going on here. I could of course just say that it’s my good old perfectionism that rears its head again, but it’s better to tackle potential ending issues now rather than later. My gut feeling isn’t happy about it anyway. Besides, I have a couple of ideas. Some are rather easy to implement, others are more extensive and require changes to be made almost throughout the book. And some carry more weight, plot-wise, than I would really like. Still, everything’s up in the air right now. I haven’t found any one idea that really work, that ties everything up nicely while leading into book two, that is sufficiently dire and not too conveniently neat… Why are endings so difficult?


 

I am also working on my website nowadays. I have an unused photoblog and I’m not too happy about the layout of everything, so I’ve been thinking heavily about it. My current idea is to have one subdomain for my art and one for my photos, with separate wordpress installations (so that they can have themes customised for the content (For example a photo header for the photo section, while the art will have a painted one) and can be reached neatly and easily), but I haven’t completely decided yet.

I could of course put everything inside my current WP installation, but I don’t want it to become too cluttered, and then I would have to find a layout that works equally well for my photos and art and writing and blog and everything. In other words, I would never actually get it done. I just discovered that there is a plugin that allows you to have a completely different theme for certain pages, but I expect there will be a significant amount of tweaking there too. For example, the gallery pages will probably not have a sidebar or many widgets at all, or they might have a featured image section and so on.

Also, wouldn’t it be easier to direct people to art.ciuva.com than to a page address? If I link from my deviantART account it would be more sensible to link directly to the art section rather than the front page of everything. I can link to the gallery pages in the menu anyway, and there will still be only one blog (this one).

Or would it be confusing with three different themes? I cannot decide! The art and photo sections will most likely have the same theme, only with different graphics, in order to look similar, but they will all look different from the main site. Unless I change that too… Ideally I would find a theme or a design that works for all three sections, but I somehow doubt it.

Of course, to add to the problem, there are no themes I am 100% happy with. Either they don’t have the right fonts, or the right colour options, or they don’t work completely right, or I get frustrated because I cannot tweak that tiny little thing I apparently really, really need. Typical.

Anyway I think I have decided to stick to the subdomain idea, now if I can only decide on a theme…

The victory update

Here it is, the most important of all NaNoWriMo updates: The Victory Update. This year, when my goal of 200k (or my ultimate dream goal 250k if things went extremely well) seemed overly optimistic even for me because of work commitments and travel and studies and whatnot, I thought I would do worse than last year. I had far less time, for one thing. I was suddenly a student. I had a work conference, plus an extra job. On the other hand I had planned out two and a half stories (well, three and a half, but one just didn’t work, hence the half one which I didn’t have the time to finish plotting before November started). One of them was the second first draft of Rogue Sorcery – since everything had to be rewritten for scratch because the plot had changed so much, I do consider it an entirely new first draft. And Cicilie will have to read it in December, as per our agreement. Poor soul. Anyway, I thought that would be quick and easy and wordy.

Turned out things didn’t go exactly according to plan.

It should perhaps be noted that this is the third year I have tried to reach 200k. Two years ago I reached 163k, then 175k last year, and both of those were… difficult. So I didn’t really expect to succeed this time. Still, I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t validate until I reached 200k. Or it was the evening of 30th of November and no more time to reach that goal. Well, I validated yesterday.

These are my stats:

stats

Very happy with those. My last story did get stuck fairly early on, but thankfully I managed to make myself change the plot, and voila, I think it improved. The main reason that I got unstuck, however, is that I finally realised that 250k when I was 50k behind and stuck was too much. So I adjusted my spreadsheet goals down to 200k, and suddenly, with that pressure gone, the writing flowed again. You can see pretty clearly at which point things got stuck and unstuck. I have to blame that one on work too, since I was at a conference for a week, but still. Lesson learnt.

If I find any time to write today, I’ll try to bring my wordcount over 210k. My goal for next year is already set – bring my Lifetime Achievement past the million. At my current wordcount that means 212k, which is perfectly doable. Especially since I want to try for 250k next year. I haven’t decided yet, but I really, really, really want it.

 

Now I just have to try to find a balance between actually finishing my story (at least writing out the plot) and studying for my exam. The exam should win, but…

What a good example I’m setting for my students.

The “Help, I need to catch up” NaNoWriMo update

We are now more than halfway into NaNoWriMo, and I’m behind. I managed to keep up with my wordcount goal, barely, until a couple of days ago, despite having rather too little time in which to write. But, surprise surprise, the combo conferences+translation jobs isn’t extremely good for getting large wordcounts – any free time was eaten up by getting the translation done. I guess it didn’t help that I finished my second story 10k before I was meant to (plotting led to a better story, but alas far less padding).

This year my goal is 250k. It’s overly ambitious, since I am far more busy than last year, when I got my personal best at 175k. 250 is equivalent to 8,333 words per day, and currently my average is 7,461 words, if I don’t count the zero words I’ve written today. If you consider that the regular NaNo goal is 1,667 I’m very happy – and 7,461 adds up to more than 221k in total, a lot more than my personal best. Besides – I have vacation next week, in which I intend to write a lot.

I have three stories lined up this year, where I have written two. The first was a fantasy story of a guy and his revenge plot that didn’t quite go as planned. The revenge that is, not the story. The second was an urban fantasy story, about a man who isn’t quite who he seems and who gets in a rather big problem (which would describe half of all stories ever, perhaps). I have tried to write this story for years now, and finally I found a plot that worked.

The last story is a second draft, actually, or rather a second first draft – the plot is so drastically changed that there is almost nothing left of the first draft except the beginning (which is already written and won’t be counted in my wordcount). I have written about the story quite a few times – it is Rogue Sorcery, which i initially wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 or 2012, I think. It is about a sorceress who has lost her powers, an emperor who tries to protect his country and someone who is wreaking all sorts of havoc. I am going to exchange manuscripts with Cicilie on the 12th (eeeek, less than a month away), at which point the 2nd draft probably should be somewhat finished… The main problem now is that it will probably not end up at 130k, which is what I need to reach 250k, so I might have to improvise a fourth story. We will see!

Nano Prep part II

This is where the “oh my God NaNoWriMo is only three days away” panic is about to take me. I’ve done what I can to prepare for it this year, but there are only so many hours in a day, and with a busy life… well. Learning my lessons from last year I’ve tried to make sure that I don’t burn myself out before NaNoWriMo has even begun, which is why I did absolutely nothing useful yesterday. (Well, that’s not quite true. I made a healthy dinner, and I worked out for an hour. I also looked at my mandatory assignment (in the most literal sense of the word) and decided I still don’t understand a thing, so there’s that).

Below is, quite simply, the far-too-long list of things that remain to do before NaNoWriMo begins. And if that wasn’t enough… I’ve evidently decided to attempt a 50kDayOne, since it’s the first time in years I don’t work all day on the 1st of November.

  1. Make lesson plans for the two next chapters in my German class (I’m going away for a conference just as we’re starting the next chapter, so I’d like my students to know exactly what they need to do even if they have a substitute teacher)
  2. Make grammar help guides and glossary lists for my German class. Not strictly speaking necessary, but they’re a bit shaky on the grammar.
  3. Make lesson plans for my English class (far easier, thankfully)
  4. Send in the student card application (as soon as I find my passport photo)
  5. Finish plotting The Revenge (working title) – the basics are fleshed out, but I need the hows and whys
  6. Finish the mandatory assignment
  7. Clean the apartment somewhat
  8. Revise some chapters

…Yeah, I don’t think I’ll manage to finish it all… BUT I can try. Number 1, 2, 3 and 6 are the most important, the rest aren’t that critical.

NaNo Prep, part 1!

There was no Worldbuilding Wednesday post yesterday, because, well, stuff. Had to help out a friend of mine with something, had a translation to do and had to work a little on a mandatory assignment for my studies. The headache didn’t exactly help either.

The main reason, however, is a good one. For once in my life I’m actually prepping for NaNoWriMo beyond deciding what story/stories to write. Not that that’s not quite a bit of work in itself – I tend to write more than 50k and also tend to need more than one story – but, well, with this crazy November and a wordcount goal of 200k I need all the prepping I can get.

Story 1 will be the second draft of Rogue Sorcery. It will be a complete rewrite (only a tiny bit will be left from the first draft, as the plot is wildly different), so I don’t feel bad about including it.

Story 2 will be a story I’ve tried to write twice before, but I have never been able to find the right plot. I had the premise and the characters, but nothing more, until last weekend. I’ve planned the main points of the plot, but hopefully I’ll have time to revise and flesh it out a little before November starts.

Story 3, the reserve story, is also a story I’ve tried to write several times before. I have six or seven versions of the beginning in my files, and I also posted it as my Saturday Snippet on the 8th of August. The plot has changed a bit – it was originally about the youngest son of the farmer’s family, who had his head in the clouds and headed off to adventure once he was told to get the dragon away from the village. Now it’s about his rational, steadfast brother instead, who is dragged along in order to keep his brother from harm. It will also feature a character I’ve been dying to use in a story for years now, after his own story fell through.

In other words, I have plenty to do before November, but I’m looking forward to it. Now I’ll just have to work hard on finishing the plots, and then finish all the other things that need to be done so I won’t have to think about them in November. We’ll see how it goes!

Catching up

This NaNoWriMo has felt like an endless battle of the clock so far, and this is usually the point where someone remarks that I could have simply not decided to overachieve again. All I can say is: It’s a slippery slope. Once you start overachieving, I don’t think not doing it is an option anymore.

This year I decided to really up my goal. Last year my goal was 100k (150k was my dream goal), and I managed 161k. This NaNoWriMo my goal is 200k, my dream goal 250k. Here’s the thing: When I set my goal and planned the daily goals, I knew that I would not be able to write much for the first two days of the month. I knew that I could not expect to get much written on the days when I had dancing, or anything at all when I go abroad to compete this weekend.

I also knew that I have holiday from work for the entire last week of NaNoWriMo and can easily write twice as much as my daily goal. I knew all those things. But when I open the spreadsheet with my stats, and see day after day when I’m behind on my goal, I don’t remember that I’ll easily catch up towards the end. No, I only see red flags glaring: “You’re behind, hurry to catch up NOW!” Aaand goodbye calm and stressless mind. Catching up 15k words is not in any way easy.

But I did it! I wrote 37k during the weekend, which means that I am officially on track, and I might even be able to write more than 200k. Or I will be able to relax after the weekend, which I fear is going to be necessary.

Story-wise, things are going well. I trudged through the first story, finishing at 50 303 words after struggling to get through it. I still love the setting and the premises of the story, but something clearly did not work with it this year. Perhaps I’m just not used to writing urban fantasy and 1st person POV. But at least I finished the draft! My current story is far more fun. It’s nearing 65k now, and I am still nowhere near finished (if everything goes according to plan, it will end up at 75k). I like the characters, I like the setting, I like the story. I think it has potential. Of course there are some rather huge wrinkles that must be ironed out, and there are certain challenges to the plot, but I am optimistic! Now things have actually started happening, too! (Yes, there are about 60k of nothing much happening. No idea how that is possible.)

Overachieving without overachieving too much

This year’s NaNoWriMo has proven to be quite the balancing act. There’s been the usual two-day meeting at work that always happens the first few days of November, and there’s a big dance competition coming up next week that will take away four full writing days, plus anywhere between 4-10 hours of dance practice every week. Plus my regular work, meetings in my writing group, translations for my brother’s company, occasionally meeting my friends… and somehow in the middle of it all I’ve decided to write 200k (dream goal 250k).

I know I should probably reduce the goal a little to ease the load, particularly since I’m lagging quite a bit behind now, but… I really don’t want to. Yes, I am behind, and yes, I’m rather tired now, but the first half of the month was the most hectic part. I also really struggled with my novel, which I finished a few days ago and replaced with a significantly more fun one. Besides, I’ll have the entire last week of November off.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m not giving up on the 200k, though – I only need to write a little less than 7300 words per day, and unless something comes up I’m going to write more than that during the last week.

As I mentioned, I struggled with my first story. Those 50k were a chore – the story just would not come out right, and I’m neither used to writing urban fantasy nor 1st person POV, and it took me 80% of the book to discover the plot.

My current story is in a more familiar setting, while being new and fresh (I haven’t written about any of the characters involved before). I’ve only written 11k so far, but I like most of the 11k, and I enjoy writing both the characters, plot and setting. Sure, there are problems, but none that cannot be fixed in the edit. The story has princes, moody kings, war, trickery, dark secrets, mystery, a little bit of romance and quite possibly dragons. The latter weren’t in the original outline (lots of things weren’t, since it’s old and very brief), but something’s got to be in those massive mountains, after all. I think it’s fair to say that while I LOVE to read urban fantasy, writing epic fantasy is more my thing. Epic, sarcastic and dark-but-optimistic fantasy.

Keep it simple, stupid

I’ve been working on this website for ages now. When I say working I really mean “doing everything else, because there is just waaay to much to do”. Sometimes, the answer isn’t to just get to work, but simply to reduce the workload and make it more… possible. Because let’s be honest here, if I had followed the original plan, I would not only have had to written up character profiles and story introductions, but I would have had to finish my worldbuilding (like you are ever really finished), make five Elvish languages and ensure that they could possibly be related (I am currently still struggling with the first one), and make two human languages. You know, as a beginning.

Yeah… No.

What I often forget is that I can always go back later and add one more category, one more menu item or one more page for that thing that I would love to have on my website, if I had only written that thing yet. It doesn’t all have to be ready right away, even if I have a clear image in my mind of how I would like this website to be.

Today I have gone through the menu and removed every single page link that isn’t ready or doesn’t at least have some content in it. Conworlding and conlanging were the victims this time, I’m afraid, and only left a few traces. There will be more content in those categories soon, though.

I’ve also changed some fonts (seriously – the menu font was ridiculously small, and too narrow) and colours – I’m still not sure I’m completely happy with it, but it’ll do for now. Feedback is much appreciated!

With that, the list of things to do before NaNoWriMo is getting shorter. I have found a way of organising my worldbuilding (password protected wiki), have transferred most of my notes there, realised that a very, very important part of the worldbuilding was never written down (and now I’ve nearly forgotten it), which in turn gave me a new story idea (which is not about something going missing, unless you count the sanity of a great number of people), I have done the rough edit on most of my photos (quite a bit of work still remains, but I don’t feel as stressed about it), I am nearly done with the grammar of Ancient Elvish (I just need to write the changes into the document) and will start making actual words any day now (fingers crossed that it hasn’t somehow mutated into some garbled nonsense in the meantime). That means that I can actually start making one of the daughter languages soon! I am also half-way through cleaning my apartment, preparing for a dance competition next weekend, aaand reading some of my unread books. (I seem to love parantheses today, can you tell?)

I should probably be planning my stories for NaNoWriMo too, but eh. I’m a pantser by heart. I have a general idea of most of them. This year I’m aiming for 200k – last year I got 160k, so it is doable – but I’ll be very happy as long as I get at least 150k.