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NANOWRIMO DAY 11: Feeling the Burn? Writers Tools (Scrivener!) and Toys (Pandora!) That May Save the Day
As Andrea Collier, our NaNoWriMo correspondent, nails the near-half-way mark (20,400 words), she has an epiphany about her protagonist and turns to Scrivener, Pandora, a digital voice recorder, and...oh yes, old-fashioned notebook and pen. DAY 11: Oh She Writers and SheWriMos, all the cake is gone. Even though I am clipping away at my 50,000 words, I feel like I'm hitting the wall. Time for writer's toys and distractions. Okay, I should not be feeling like this until next week, which is the half-way point. But I'm getting ADD. I'm still laying down words at the rate I promised myself-- steady and messy. But SheWriters, I am back to wondering what I was thinking. I am beyond the put butt in chair phase. The glow of focus is blurry. And sometimes I embed stupid stuff in my work just to keep me interested. Like today, I added a section called “It was a dark and stormy night.” I listed all the things that could happen on a dark and stormy night. This was not good. It was just a diversion. I notice that I play computer Scrabble more. I curse at the computer more. And the critic is really getting to me. I curse at her too. (But as fellow She Writer Tayari Jones points out, criticism can hurt, but it's essential!) I am now at 20,400 words. Can you believe it? So technically I am almost at the halfway mark. Consistency has its virtues. Consistency is like the NY City Marathon. It’s worse than that. It is like running the marathon blindfolded, with a drunk seeing-eye dog. I don’t have a clue where I'm going—except that I'm going to 50,000 words or bust. I have gained three stressed out pounds. And I split open my toenail after kicking the scale. So let’s talk about writer’s toys and tools. It's a topic of discussion over at GalleyCat, and I know I can no longer be singularly focused. I eventually have to find ways to trick myself into writing my NaNoWriMo words. I have had a hard time posting anything on their site. So that is not on my list of fun diversions this week. But I did get a terrific, inspirational pep talk from the fabulous writer Aimee Bender. Her words will knock out any writer, NaNoWriMo or not. The toys and tools: Scrivener—I have mastered a few tools. I haven’t done anything horrendous. I like the ways I can break up my scenes and still have a master document when I need it. And just because I told myself that this was a novelist’s tool, I do feel more like a novelist. I have also taken time out to play with some of the tutorials. And I really like the digital note cards that act like real ones. I get to move stuff around, even though I'm not yet editing at this point. And back to basics: my beautiful new fountain pen and my notebook. I've gotten sick of writing on ye old Macbook Pro. I want to hear the scratch of the fountain pen against beautiful paper. This is really how I feel most like a writer—except I can’t always read my own handwriting. I did one whole day in my silver notebook that has the word Create inscribed on it. And of course, I couldn’t read it! So when I went to put it in Scrivener I just typed what I thought I had written. This is not time effective. Distractions? I have a few. Pandora—gotta love some good music. Especially once you get some noise-canceling headphones. And I also did a couple of new playlists on iTunes. I must admit to you now that ever single playlist I have ever created has Gloria Esteban’s Conga on it. And Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious. Gotta mix it up. Post It Notes in Day Glo Orange-- I walk around with a pad of them. As I am cooking dinner or watching The Good Wife, or kicking myself because I should be writing, I get an idea and write it down and put it on a page of the notebook. And then there are the Kim Kardashian makeup tips on Youtube. Self explanatory. Clearly I am starting to hate my writing life—at least my NaNo writing life. I will do anything to be diverted. Another distraction: the editors who want to give you paying work. This is not all that good for my NaNoWriMo, but it is good for keeping the lights on. Two writing assignments this week. Gotta love it. I'm also making good use of my Olympus digital voice recorder. I like to hear how some of this sounds. Most of it sounds terrible. Five words out of 20,000 sound BRILLIANT. As for other reads, I had sworn off good books for the duration. But as the tank of creativity sputters, I need to know that a person can write a good book, although most have not written them in 30 days. I am reading Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice which I love. And I just read the first 50 pages of a piece of sludge that made me feel better about my own crap. Every writer should take a little time off and read something that is so terrible that it makes you hop happily back to your chair. And so in the midst of all this activity, I had a discovery about why my protagonist is doing something that I don’t understand. She’s scarred by her parents’ marriage. Duh! It took me 20,400 words to get this: “You broke the covenant. You broke our deal. This wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for you.” My husband is what you call charismatic. He can make you believe that pigs can indeed fly. With a knowing look and a wink he can convince you that you too can walk through hell in gasoline drawers. He can convince you that you robbed a bank in Hong Kong, even though your passport tells you that you’ve been in the French Quarter the whole damn time. So when he told me that it was I who had broken our marriage, I believed him—for a minute. I had spent my married life doing what most married women do, what most smart married women do: I used my words carefully. I measured out the weight of each word much in the way I measured out flour and salt and baking powder. Doing the things you do when you want to make sure it all comes out perfect. So SheWriters, and SheWriMos, have you hit your epiphany sweet spot? Have you figured out some big dramatic truth? And where will that truth take you? Andrea King Collier is a Lansing, Michigan based freelance writer and author of Still With Me...A Daughter's Journey of Love and Loss (Simon and Schuster) and Black Woman's Guide to Black Men's Health. Related Links: The She Writes NaNoWriMo Group The SheWriMo Thread The SheWriMo Shares All Blog Photo: incompetech.com

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  • Kristi Holmes Espineira

    I know! SO evil! But so brilliant, because who wants to lose any of their hard-won words?


    An evil genius obviously developed that most severe of punishments on Write or Die, Kristi. Heavens to Murgatroid !

  • Kristi Holmes Espineira

    Best toy ever: Write or Die. It's just brilliant - you set a word count/time goal, and start typing. If you stop typing, "punishments" happen (you can pick the severity). Most severe: it starts erasing what you've written, word by word, until you start writing again. It is evil and brilliant and has kept me on pace with my word count!

  • Julie Jeffs

    I am so far behind in NaNo words but I am trying not to beat myself up too much. I had, before NaNo, finished the first draft of a memoir. But for NaNo it is fiction, the first time I have really tried to think about book-length fiction. I started with a snippet of dialogue and I magically found my protagonist. I have, for the first time, experienced the idea of my protagonist getting to choose where the story goes. The best part is I love my protaganist and right now I love the story. Keep hearing great things about Scrivener, may have to try it. Well off to see if I can make a dent in getting caught up. Congrats on your 20,000+ words! I have to agree with Evin, I play far too long on SheWrites and twitter.

  • Walker Thornton

    No big ephipany, though writing without The Editor has allowed me to write some family mess that I had not initially thought I could, in my fictionalized memoir. I think it might end up surviving the post Nov. edit!!
    You just read a piece of sludge! Love it!!!
    I"m way behind in this challenge, 10210 words! NO real excuse, though I could say my paid writing has pressed me.
    Anyway, thanks for the diversion and the chuckle.

  • Lori L. Tharps

    I'm with you Andrea. It's so hard. But feels good to be in good company. I'm supposed to be writing now, but as you can see, I'm procrastinating with you. I took the weekend off, which was bad. Now I'm behind. I like your post-it notes idea though. Okay. Back to work. Thanks for posting.