To Nano or Not to Nano…

If you’re an aspiring writing, you’ve most likely heard of NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of wanna-be writers (this girl included on an occasion or two) park their backsides in booths and tables at coffee shop across America (and beyond!) and apply fingers to keyboard in an effort to tap out 50,000 words in a month.

It’s a daunting task. I’ve participated twice in NaNo and failed twice.

If I were to sit and think about why I failed, it really comes down to things:

  1. Daily word count
  2. Winning

I am an incredibly competitive person. I’m not very good at sports, but I am ruthless at board and card games. I’ve been known to doggedly play the same game over and over until I win… and then quit. (Hey–I said I was competitive, not stupid!). Winning, as ridiculous as this sounds, means something to me. Probably because I’m not incredibly athletic, never played sports growing up, and was nearly always the last person chosen for a gym class team.  The idea of winning at writing is VERY appealing to me–hello? (Wanna-be) Writer over here! However, NaNo has kinda become like the only game I’ve ever played and never won: Chess.

I am a terrible Chess player not for lack of trying–trust me, I try all. the. time!–but because I can never strategize correctly. When I plan out my moves in advance, carefully analyzing the board and all possible moves, my opponent inevitably finds the one available move I did not. When I play by the seat of my pants, I inevitably find my Queen sidelined and my King backed into a corner by a band of evil pawns.

Winning then becomes a chore rather than a fun goal. NaNo winning, the two times I participated, were kind of like that. I found myself either stymied by some minor detail that slipped my attention during all my pre-writing planning or backed into a corner and facing far too many narrative threads to bother untangling them.

Daily word count is no friend of mine either. I like to choose my words carefully. I frequently write, read, delete, and rinse and repeat. This idea that to “win” one has to write X amount of words a days is in some ways a bit too much pressure for me.  I inevitably throw my hands in the air and say “f**k it” when my word count falls behind.  The headlong  rush to the daily finish line just doesn’t suit my writing style.

So I’m on the fence: To NaNo or not to NaNo? I have roughly 20K written. NaNo, if I completed the challenge, would give me another 50K, leaving about 10-15K to write to complete the manuscript. (Whew! That’s a LOT of K!).

I don’t want to race, but I desperately want to finish.

What about it friends? Are you NaNo-ing

Sunday Snippet: 101 Word Teaser of WIP

Ying-Shi dipped one of the clean bandages into the water and pushed the woman’s hair away from her wound. It was soft and well cared for, not the crackly straw of a woman who labored under a hot sun. His mother’s hair had been like that once.

Then he began. He cleaned the dirt and coagulated blood from the wound as best he could. He made the stitches tiny and close together, and was careful not to pull the skin too tight lest it bulge when it scarred. He didn’t realize that he’d been holding his breath until he was done.

Revisions… They are Hard.

I have a confession to make: I’m not done writing my WIP. Not even close. In fact, I’d say I’m somewhere between a quarter to a third of the way done.

And I’m taking a pause to revise.

You heard me right–I’m revising.

I know, I know. Write the rough draft and then revise. And this is what I’ve told my students in the past (I taught college level creative and composition writing for a few years). And I *usually* heed my own advice–I’m a research and outline the bejesus out of a project before writing it kind of girl.

And yet I’m revising.

Here’s why. I’ve researched (I like authenticity), and I’ve started writing and despite my preparation, I’m stuck. I *know* where my story is going, but I think I’m treading water because it’s been about eight months since I last shook the dust off the manuscript and took a whack at it.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder; rather it makes the brain forget and the creative juices sour.

So I’m re-reading what I’ve written so far, making some minor and major tweaks as I go along, hoping that my memory is jogged and my juices… juiced.

God that sounds gross.

Anyway… the whole process is kinda like this:

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What I’m Writing

So now that I’ve got this little writer’s blog, perhaps I should talk about my writing…

By training–I hold an MFA–I am a creative non-fiction writer. I am not, to be clear, a memoirist. I’m not that exciting nor have I ever suffered a great personal or familial trauma. Rather, my non-fiction work focuses on essays in the vein of George Orwell and Charles Dickens’ non-fiction with a dash of Paul Theroux thrown in for a good measure. (Yes, both Orwell and Dickens wrote non-fiction. In fact, Dickens got his start as a journalist NOT a novelist. Both authors are brilliant, poignant, and critical in their observations). If I really had to label myself, I’d say I’m a travel writer. Some day, I’d love to write something along the lines and magnitude of  Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee or take creative license with a true story as John Hersey did in Hiroshima. So far, I’ve published only one creative non-fiction piece–you can read it here if you want–and hope to publish more in the future. I enjoy this flavor of writing.

In fact, I enjoy many flavors of writing. I don’t see why, as a writer, I must write myself into corner, become *only* this type or that type of writer.

Case in point? My current WIP, The Clocwork Cricket,  is a Steampunk novella (possibly novel) about a young Chinese immigrant living in Gold Rush Era California. There are spies selling secrets to remnants of Santa Ana’s army, damsels who refuse to be in distress, race riots,  and steam powered cars (which DID exist at the time believe it or not… mine just happen to resemble Astin Martins rather than clunky trolley cars). I’m using my training as a non-fiction writer–specifically my research skills–to delve deeper into the history of the 1850s. I’ve accessed laws regarding mining and the Chinese (a lot of racist legalese). I delved into the history of steam powered vehicles, INCLUDING first hand observation of one such conveyance at a historical car museum. I even got to examine close up–as in touch!–period clothing. My non-fiction training has helped me create a world (and it’s inhabitants) that feel (to me at least) real just by tweaking the very real details.

Cause really, who doesn’t want to drive a steam powered Astin Martin?

On Entering, and Losing, a Contest

I entered, and lost, a contest for inclusion into a YA anthology. In retrospect (as in after reading the winning entries), my entry was not suited to this anthology.

And I’m okay with that.

Here’s why: I wrote something, on a deadline. I edited–thoroughly edited–something on a deadline. I steeled my nerves and submitted my writing. To me, this last bit is the most important part. I’ve been really afraid of “sharing” my work with other people. Fear, my friends, has no place in a writers life.

The fearful don’t get published.

No guts, no glory.

After I wept bitter tears of disappointment (kidding, kidding), I picked myself up, revised one more time (just in case) and sent that short story out into the world yet once again. This time I engaged in more thorough research and found a paying market in which I think my submission has a better chance of thriving.

And here’s the thing. If this short story doesn’t get accepted at this particular market, I’ll do the same thing–revise, rewrite, resubmit. Over and over and over again until someone DOES accept my submission. And pays me for it.

In the mean time, I’m writing another short story. Because…

No guts, no glory.

Hello! Won’t You Come In?

Why hello there, friend! Welcome to my blog.

I bet you’re going “Oh man! Not another one of these wanna-be writers’ blogs!”

Well… yeah. I’m a wanna-be writer and this is my blog. I can’t promise that the posts will always be relevant as I’m easily boondoggled by shiny things like movies and TV and cats and craft projects (ESPECIALLY craft projects and ESPECIALLY during Halloween!). I do promise to *try* to amuse as much as possible and on occasion, maybe impart a little wisdom.

So other than that, (extends hand) hello! I’m Tina. I’m a thirty-something living with my beau and my two crazy Siamese cats. I love my cat’s irrationally and think that when it comes to my beau I’m the luckiest girl alive. Seriously, friends, he makes AMAZING breakfast! And that’s not all he’s good at if you catch my drift (wink, wink). No, seriously. He’s beyond supportive of my writing endeavors and frequently wishes I’d get published so we could live la vida loca (HA!). But I digress.

So yeah… I’m a wanna-be writer and this is my blog.