Saturday, May 22, 2010

Midnight Writing and NaNo Lessons

I was scrubbing my face last night, deep in my before bed ritual, when I suddenly had an idea that I needed to add to the story. Exhausted, but hit with inspiration, I lathered on some moisturizer and sat down to write. I didn't go into detail because I still have much rewriting to do. It was important to get that little seed buried in the proper part for watering later on. As I was typing, I thought to myself, THIS is what being a writer is all about. Those ideas that you just have to get onto paper before they disappear into the night and aren't remembered again. I had read on Rebecca Hargreaves blog here that she had done the same thing. Only she got up at 3am to plunk out her pages and flush out a story part! When inspiration strikes, it strikes. We get caught up in it and have to go with it, I guess. Then I remembered a friend who still writes for television telling us all at a dinner party that he has a lighted pen and pad of paper by his bedside. Too many great ideas were escaping while he slept. He would wake up with an idea, whether for the current show he was on or for a future show, but not want to get out of bed. Too lazy to get up, he would lie there in that state just between dreaming and waking as the idea bounced around in his head like a silver ball in a pinball game. He would toss and turn, waking her. Finally, he would drift back to sleep. In the morning, the idea would be gone and he'd have had a terrible nights sleep. Knowing that getting out of bed was not an option for him, his wife had bought him the pen as a present (for both of them). It lit up when you pressed it to the paper. He could roll over, write a few words to remind him of the idea in the morning, then go back to sleep. Problem solved! I know that I have forgotten some gems when I didn't get out of bed or was somewhere without paper to write on. It didn't take long for me to plant the seed, do a little watering and then finish the rest this morning.

This NaNo was so much fun.

1. I can write an entire book from start to finish in less than three months when I put my mind to it.

2. Setting goals helps - whether you set a daily word goal, weekly word goal or just a simple goal of writing daily. I started picking up the pace when I joined other writers and set weekly goals.

3. Some days, no matter how much you love your story and your characters, you have to force yourself to write.

4. I can write in a crowded cafeteria on the back of a teaching schedule.

5. It is easier for me to return to my desk the next day if I have left off in the middle of a scene. I'm more apt to jump out of bed, grab my coffee and get straight to work if I know exactly where I'm going. If it's an action scene, even more exciting. Though, I may have trouble sleeping that night as it whispers to me from the other room.

6. Friends help. There is safety in numbers. It's nice to have people celebrate your small victories, sympathize with the week you struggled and toast you at the end of your journey.

7. Format as you go. I didn't. I started out that way, then got lazy. I just single spaced from Chapter 10 on. No chapter breaks, no formatting. I've spent the better part of the last three days formatting, which leads to rewriting, and I'm not done yet.

8. No writing scenes out by hand. I made this mistake. The point of the Mini NaNo was no rewriting. I do that automatically as I'm transcribing them. This takes more time. Rather than getting new writing done, I'm going over the old scene to perfection. It will not be perfect. This is a Mini NaNo.

9. It doesn't have to be perfect. I am cringing at parts as I format, but that is okay. This is a ZERO draft. There are many drafts and polishes to come! I'm bringing the best out in this wood as I carve it, polish it, paint it.

10. The excitement doesn't end with the NaNo. I still look forward to getting to my writing every morning. It's all I think about when I'm away from it at the moment. Ideas to polish, changes for characters. I love it!

This has been a very rewarding experience. My writing definitely finished stronger than it started. I look forward to tweaking it and then sharing it and then rewriting more as I get the critiques in. At the moment, it's not ready for any eyes by my own. Not even my mother could love it right now, I think (and that woman has loved her some very bad writing of mine in the past). It's okay. It didn't have to be perfect. Progress, not perfection was the goal of the Mini NaNo. Perfection takes time. It takes patience. For now, it's done! The hardest part out of the way. Now comes the fun part - I now have the general piece, but it's time to take the goggles off, put away the chainsaw and get out the carving tools. Time to refine, to get into the details. Hopefully, it will end up the paper version of Tim Racer's piece above.

For more of Tim's amazing work, click on the link below:


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog and commeting!!! I love your profile picture, you are gorgeous and you look divine in the wedding gown!

    Cute pup too by the way!

    I haven't done a Nano but I am really starting to think I should, the list you gave was excellent so maybe I'll hop to it the next round!

  2. You are so sweet. I never felt as beautiful as I did on my wedding day! I love love love your blog Jen! I follow it now and pop in almost daily. You have great taste in writer's and I've found some other great ones through you (Elana Johnson!).

    You must do the next NaNo. I think we're going to do another one before the November official NaNo. We're perfecting our ways before it becomes "official". They're fun and it's amazing to see how much you can you truly get done in a short amount of time. Although I did run over just a bit...okay, a month and a half over. But I finished! Well, the rough draft. Edits start tomorrow.