First NaNo & First Chapters

 

17/52 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Image by ξωαŋ ThΦt via Flickr

 

2 weeks to go and counting….
Drum roll please….

NaNoWriMo 2010 is 2 weeks away: which means you have 2 weeks of sanity left. On Monday, 1st November 2010 you are going to become temporarily schizophrenic. I choose this prognosis deliberately. Read the dictionary meaning of Schizophrenia and decide for yourself if you fit the bill in November…


schizophrenia |ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə; -ˈfrenēə|nouna long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings,withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.• (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.DERIVATIVESschizophrenic |-ˈfrenik| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrɛnɪk| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrinɪk| |-ˈfrɛnɪk| adjective & noun ORIGIN early 20th cent.: modern Latin, from Greek skhizein ‘to split’ + phrēn ‘mind.’


Writing is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

~E. L. Doctorow

So in hindsight, do you believe you qualify as retreating from the world into an imagined earth with imagined people who seem to be more real than the ink that created them?

To be a writer is a solitary pursuit…or is it? For the everyman, writing is a solitary pursuit. After all there does not seem any need for anyone else to be present for the writer to write. If you ask a writer though, the answer may be quite contradictory. When you write, you have a blank page in front of you, a clean slate to begin with. There is something very liberating about being faced with a blank page and then putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and creating a brand new world. As a writer, you have total control…or do you?

The only control a writer has on the story is the first word, the first line and the first chapter. After that, the page becomes a living entity. It starts breathing under your fingertips. Slowly the flesh builds upon the bone and your skeleton is formed. The brain is formed in the first chapter. Then the heart is formed. Slowly blood starts pumping through the arteries, read chapters, and your story gains a personality. At that moment, a face has not formed yet, you have a creation. As the heart starts beating with a stronger beat, emotion starts colouring the pages. Suddenly you are not faced with black words on a white page but you are surrounded by people who are formed by ink and emotion. Slowly you start seeing a face in the story. Your story has a name and a purpose. It is as if you are peering through a misted mirror in a bathroom and slowly the mist dissipates leaving a face staring back at you. Who is the face that stares back at you? Why it’s you! The writer, the creator, the father, the mother, the child, the good, the bad, the comedy, the tragedy….all the simple complexities that make up your imagination and fuel your dreaming. That is who has come out and joined you on this journey of ink and pages.

After that first chapter is written, the story takes control of your imagination. Call it your Muse, call it your inspiration, call it Magic but something inexplicably beautiful happens from the second chapter onwards….Story is created. Story is the thread that weaves all of our histories, our presents and our futures together. Story is the magic carpet ride that allows us to travel though time and space just by opening a book or closing your eyes and listening to the tales of The Story.

So the question again is: Is Writing a solitary pursuit? No writing is a community activity. As writers, we often hear “write what you know”. Our stories are rooted in our memories and our experiences. Our stories are tangible evidence of six senses. Our stories come alive and breathe with what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, what we touch and lastly all that we feel. Stories do not come from the mind. Stories come from the heart of our emotions. Stories come from the resting place of the bird that sings within our soul. Stories come from the truest innocence of the inner child we all are in our dreams.

In just a short while, a mere two weeks, thousands of people will be sitting at their desks to start a story of a 30 days. Some of us are starting off for the first time. Some of us are experienced at this story-marathon. But all of us have a story to tell. Maybe we needed a vehicle like NaNoWriMo to get it out there but to tell a story is the goal and the purpose. The only rules of NaNoWriMo are that you not write your story before the 1st of November nor are you allowed to edit the story while writing. The whole point of this challenge is that you are to switch off from distraction and for at least an hour a day tap into that incredible stream of Story within your soul. Non-writers may insist that you are tapping into a stream of consciousness but I beg to differ: The Story hidden within your soul is one that is unconscious and instinctive. Indeed it is a Stream of Imagining and a Stream of creation.

I have been thinking about first chapters this week. I have realised how important first chapters are. They are the scroll of hieroglyphics found within the walls of the Sphinx. First chapters give your Story and your creations a voice. Suddenly the Story that was hidden with the depths of your soul and glimpsed through the vision of your dreaming is released and a fountain of knowledge is poured out for the reader. Your first chapter has the power to give your reader time travelling abilities. You can take them into different countries, even different universes but all the time you are the navigator.

On the 1st of November you, along with thousands of other writers around this milky way, will write the first word of your first line of your first paragraph of your first chapter…focus on that. Do not focus on 50 000 words or more. Do not focus on plot holes, story arcs or conflicts and resolutions. On the 1st of November 2010, you only need to focus on getting down that first chapter. Then let the Power of The Story take control of your consciousness. Don’t think. Feel. Let the beat of your heart set the rhythm of the words you write. We each have this power to tap into our Dreaming and our Emotions to flesh out The Story.

The true secret of NaNoWriMo is that you already have The Story within you. Just write the first chapter. November will take care of 30 days and The Story will take care of 50 000 words but you must focus on taking care of the first chapter. That is all you need to commit to.

  • The First Word
  • The First Line
  • The First Paragraph
  • The First Chapter

Every journey of 1000 steps may begin with the first step but every Story of 50 000 words begins with one word forming one line forming one paragraph forming one chapter.

So with 2 weeks to go until the Kickoff of NaNoWriMO 2010, make this simple commitment with yourself and thousands of other NaNo participants. Put away the Angst, the frustration, the anxiety, the trepidation. Be still and rest your heart for just a moment. Now commit to writing in the voice of The Story: the first chapter.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning

NaNoWriMo ~ Quality and Quantity

Heffala put paws to novel
Image by bulldog1 via Flickr

3 weeks and counting….

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. This week has flown by and time is tick-ticking me forward to NaNoWriMo time. This week I have spent a lot of time perusing the World Wide Web for tips on preparation and inspiration for NaNoWriMo. In reflection of these sites, there seems to be a 50-50 sway on Plotting for NaNoWriMo, Some NaNo writers believe that plotting kills the whole concept of NaNoWriMo. They argue that NaNoWriMo should be an organic writing experience. Still others argue that it does not matter what you write as long as you reach the amount of minimum words.

As for myself, in everything I believe in Quality first. Yes I could make life easier for myself and just write whatever happens to enter my mind irregardless of the quality of the thoughts. On top of this, I also add that I take my writing very seriously. Even if NaNoWriMo is a competition to challenge yourself, never-the-less it is still a competition and in the end are we not trained to Go for Gold. Then surely this means that Quality and Quantity need to have equal parts in your NaNoWriMo.

What are your thoughts?

For me writing is reflective of who I am. Writing, whether it be in a blog post, for NaNo or a WIP; is about myself putting my best mental foot forward. When I get up in the morning and get ready for the day job I have a routine:

I have a mug of coffee and eat a healthy breakfast. Then I shower and get dressed. Finally I do my hair and makeup. This all takes about an hour of the day. When I get to work, I prepare the tasks that need to be accomplished for that day. Then finally I am ready for the work day to begin.

If I put so much time and thought into preparing for my day job, why would I put little to no thought in preparing for NaNoWriMo. The answer is I wouldn’t. If I put so much effort into my day job preparation then I must put the same if not more effort into any and all my writing pursuits.

This is why I rest on the side of the plotting and the Quality argument for NaNoWriMO. If I do all my plotting and preparation for NaNoWriMo now then I will be better prepared to write a quality submission. There is also another winning argument for plotting: If you have an outline of firstly what you want to write about and secondly where you want to go with your story, then you have a greater chance of succeeding at winning NaNoWriMo by writing at least 50 000 words of Quality writing.

Preparation is a key to self-discipline. A runner completes time-laps and has training runs to prepare both his body and his mind for a race. A student revises and studies course material to prepare for an examination. So what is the preparation for a writing challenge where you are to write a new piece of prose in a limited time span with a word count tacked on?

On the Twitter #group for NaNoWriMo, they have been doing NaNo Sprints. This is very good training for this challenge. It keeps your thoughts focused on the clock and on your word count. You also get into a rhythm that focuses your writing into a short time period. It also gets you to flex your writing muscles.

Another great way to prepare for this challenge is to Freemind. Freemind or Mind-maps are a visual way to plan your outline. I am a plotter in that I like to be prepared. This does not mean that I always stay in the lines but it does mean that instead of just one puzzle piece, I have a picture to reference that allows me to complete my jigsaw puzzle. Freemind is a tool I use to build the frame of my “puzzle”. Mind Mapping is a fantastic tool to prepare for any given challenge. It especially lends itself to something like NaNoWriMo. It is a very organic way to plot and outline without narrowing your thoughts. Instead it focuses your thoughts in a very visual way. Freemind is such a “free-flow” form of mind mapping that even pantsters can appreciate it. It works better for me than a bullet form or longhand written outline. I can combine short ideas with a visual graph that helps me brainstorm my ideas.

Another great way to prepare those mental muscles are writing exercises. These can vary from interviewing your characters to blogging or journalling in the voice of one of your characters. You could also picture yourself in the setting of your story and write a travel article for that setting. You could write a review of your unwritten novel focusing on the salient points. The ideas for the exercises are endless and are only bounded by your imagination.

One way I am also using to prepare for Quality writing is reading exercises. Reading is one of the best methods to stretch those mental writing muscles and the imagination arteries that fuel those muscles. The plotting, the word sprints, the main mapping and the writing exercises are all work for your mental muscles. They will strengthen and bulk up your mental muscles. However, you don’t just want bulk in muscle, you also want definition and tone. Muscles – mental and physical – are defined by stretching and toning. Reading therefore is the Pilates to your NaNoWriMo. So take the phone off the hook, take your wristwatch off, open a book and start “stretching”. I recommend at least 2 hours a day to these “Pilates” sessions.

Lastly, continue with your other writing pursuits prior to November. The more writing you do the more habitual it becomes. Writing everyday should be as routine as brushing your teeth every day. The more often you write and the more substance you write on a daily basis improves your writing. It becomes simpler to write Quality + Quantity.

There are 21 days left until the flag is waved and the race starts. Use these 21 days wisely. Remember the preparation you put into the simplest daily tasks and use that same self-discipline in preparing your mind for this challenge. Do research on how successful past NaNo winners have succeeded and listen to their hindsight when they failed. Don’t keep this challenge a secret but tell everyone you can about this challenge you are setting yourself. The more people who know you are doing NaNoWriMO, the greater are your chances that you will feel an accountability to both yourself and these people to put your best mental foot forward.

21 days and counting…..

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

It’s almost NaNoWriMo time!

nanowrimo
Image by evilnick via Flickr

It is October. In exactly 4 weeks time NaNoWriMo 2010 officially begins. If you have not yet heard of NaNoWriMo, then let me tell you all about it. It is a challenge set up for writers to become novelists. The goal is to write a minimum of 50 000 words in a month. Writers, both published novelists and wanna-be novelists, from all around the world count down the weeks and months until NaNoWriMo. The event has become so popular that there are all sorts of spin-offs from it. Now not only do novelists have an event but young writers and scriptwriters too.

Writing 50 000 words in a month may seem like a crazy idea or an impossible dream to some of you reading this. But if you have a dream, you have to do crazy things to fulfil it. Dreams do not just come true without some effort of reaching for them by the dreamer.

Do you consider yourself a dreamer?

Do you consider yourself a writer?

Many would say that the two go hand in hand. Writing is seen by many as a dream or a way to pass the time. But I am a writer. This is my identity. Yes, I have a job that pays the bills. At the end of the day though my daily job does not define me. My writing however does define me. It is the truest form of me. So for those left-brain type nay-sayers out there I beg to differ with you. Writing is not a hobby nor a way to pass my time.

This year I am participating in NaNoWriMo. I attempted my own version of NaNo in June this year which actually seeded the idea for my WIP Trilogy. However, I had no support, no buddies, no forums, no hash-tag twitter groups…I had myself, my trusty Macbook, an idea and a self-challenge. Did I succeed? Yes, I think I did succeed. I got a lot of writing done and had the foundation of a trilogy.

But participating in NaNoWriMo 2010 is going to be even better than my own June attempt. This event has a website, it has support, it has writing buddies, it has forums and it has hash-tag twitter group.

Are you a writer?

Do you thrive on challenges?

Do you have a dream?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then by now you will already have signed up and registered for NaNoWriMo 2010.

If you are a blogger, you can also join and link up to the NaNoWriMo Blog Chain. Through here you can link all your Blog Posts about NaNo and the days and weeks leading up to it.

If you do register, look me up @ last_lines.

I am going to use a story-arc that has been tickling my imagination for some time. There are two methods of thought to tackle NaNoWriMo. There are the pantser variety of NaNo writers and then there are the plotters. Which do you fall into? I am somewhere in between the two. I do love letting the flow of a story carry me along to strange and distant lands. But I find that the ocean of imagination can be a vast and stormy zone if I don’t have some form of compass. So for the next 4 weeks I will be plotting a way through the seas by constellations of character and story arcing.

I am also going to use the next month to test out a new software program developed by one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. The software is called Storyist. I have been using Scrivener since May this year and love it. I have heard some amazing things about Storyist so this year I am going to use this software for my NaNo novel.

October Sundays will be about blogging about all things NaNoWriMo related as well as journaling my points of inspiration / frustration in preparing and plotting for NaNo kick-off.

My creative juices are bubbling away. Now the only difficult thing is the patient waiting for November to begin and NaNoWriMo to kick-off. It is a good thing that I have other writing to focus on for my WIP or else I might find myself cheating and wanting to start on the NaNo novel. Don’t worry: I am not going to cheat. 4 weeks and counting…..

Happy NaNoWriMo plotting / prepping!

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.