Time to Prep for NaNoWriMo ’17

Three weeks to NaNoWriMo. It’s time to get ready!

Getting Ready
I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo site with my novel for this year. Have you? This year, I’m going somewhat down the middle between pantser and plotter. I want to have a very simple plot, so I am not floundering, but not so much I feel guilty if I want to go in a different direction. Now I need to start filling up my story notebook with ideas, plot points, and some character outlines. I’ll add to my notebook as I go.

Story Idea
This year I came up with my story idea without any real work. The basic plot and main character just sort of dropped into my lap one day and I made a few notes in my bits and pieces scrivener file. That folder is the first place I look for inspiration for NaNo novel ideas. If I hadn’t had an idea ready and waiting, I would have done some brainstorming work to find something to write about.

How many words per day?
I’m thinking about trying something a little different with my daily word goal this year. I’ve written before about how many words I like to write per day during November, but I came across something called the reverse NaNo, and I think I’ll try it this year. Basically with a reverse NaNo you write 3,346 words on Day 1, and then write a little less each day until on the 30th you only need 1 word to finish. Currently I’m sticking with a tradition word goal of 50,000, but who knows. If I’m having a good year, maybe I’ll up it.

Other NaNo Posts
I did my first NaNo in 2007. Since then I haven’t missed a November. With ten wins under my belt, NaNo is something I post about fairly frequently. In 2015 I even did a series of NaNo posts.

Are you doing NaNo this year? What are you doing to get ready?

Advertisements

Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

My First Handbound Journal

Floral covered handbound journal.Last night I went to a program about bookbinding at my local library. The two hour session started with a brief introduction, and then we got to make our own journal/notebook. You can see mine on the left. I’m really happy with how well it turned out, especially for a first attempt!

First we had to select the pieces that would become our journals. We needed cardboard for the cover, 36 pages for the inside, thread for the binding, and decorative paper to wrap around the cover.

Next up were the supplies to put everything together. Scissors, glue, needle, pencil, a thimbles, and an awl. In the end I didn’t find the thimble overly useful, and while the awl was great for putting the holes in the cover, I preferred a large needle to make the holes in the paper. The needle I used for threading the binding was curved, and it made the whole process nice and quick.
bound edge of journal

I decided to use one coloured sheet for the outside of each section (in this case six sheets stacked and folded in half). This meant, as you can see on the right, each section of the binding was bright and colourful. In the green sections I used dotted paper, and in the rest plain paper. We assembled the journals using a kettle stitch. It was easy to learn, and once I got the hand motions down, surprisingly fast.

I really enjoyed making this journal, and can definitely see myself making more. I think I’m going to use the plain sheets in this one for some smaller writing projects that don’t need an entire notebook. The dotted pages are going to be used for quilting sketches.

Have you done any bookbinding? Do you know of any great online resources for learning more about book binding?

Stretching my Skills

I recently stumbled across an old post by Piecemeal Quilts discussing the ‘dumbing down of quilting’. For me the important part of the post wasn’t the discussion on what counts as intermediate, but the idea that we should challenge ourselves instead of relying on the same basic skill set.

I’m pretty good at applying this strategy to my writing. I try and write deeper characters, more relaistic dialogue, or to not give the ending away in the first scene. It doesn’t come easily or naturally and it’s often unsuccessful, but I keep trying.

After reading Piecemeal’s post, I realized I couldn’t say the same for my quilting. I haven’t moved beyond squares, half square triangles, and a few rectangles. Those are all important skills. Those skills are all you need to make beautiful quilts, but there are other things I could be working on. I don’t need to expand my skills. I could continue to make beautiful quilts with those shapes. The more I think about it though, the more I want to expand my skills. I want to stretch my quilting self.

This year I’ve set a goal of finishing three quilt tops, and three quilts. I want at least one of those quilts to include a new to me skill. I’m planning on a quilt for my mother that includes (kind of) flying geese. I have also bookmarked a quilt that includes diamonds and y-seams. My plan is to tackle the flying geese, which should be fairly straight forward, then move on to the diamonds and y-seams.

At this point I don’t plan to ever move onto curved seams, but I won’t rule it out completely. I want to quilt for many years to come, and over those years I’d like to think my skills will improve and maybe I’ll be ready to jump into something that seems crazy to me today. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I said I wanted to make quilt tops, but not quilt them.

Do you have any skills you’re planning to stretch this year? What writing or quilting projects are you working on?

Plotter vs. Panster

I’ve talked before about how I don’t have the usual skills for writing. I’m logical and love math, numbers, and statistics. I have a computer science degree, and pick up computer programs quickly. I like quilting in squares and triangles with straight lines and perfect points. Free motion quilting is about as crazy as I get with my sewing machine. And even then I keep it organized and logical in execution. It should come as no surprise that I considered myself a plotter for years.

In 2012 I took a risk and wrote NaNo without a plot. To be honest when I started writing I didn’t even have an idea. I had a single image in my head of a hidden square wooden door in a dark basement. So, I named a character and let her lead the way through her own story.

Since that time I’ve gone back to my plotting ways, or at least that is what I told myself. Then I started really thinking about my story writing style in the context of plotting vs pantsing. Was I ever REALLY a plotter?

My very first NaNo I started writing with a general concept. It was a sort of alternate world to our own. The only real different between the world of this novel and our own world was that women in my world could only have one child before becoming infertile. When I started writing that story I didn’t have much more than the world, main characters, and a vague idea of where I wanted that story to end.

Most years I plot out the first half or so of my novel, decide where I think it should end, and let the middle kind of take on a life of its own to get to that end. I know I’m not (usually) a pantser, not completely. But as I look back at my writing attempts I realize I’m not really a plotter either. I guess like most things there is a grey area and that is where I fall. I’m part panters and part plotter. It feels kind of good to get that out, to sent the record straight.

Are you a plotter or a panster? Do you fall somewhere in between?

Fueling my Creativity

Saturday night I went out with some of my favourite writers for some writing, dinner, and then dessert. When all was said and done, I had a leftover samosa, some curry and rice, and half a piece of cheesecake. Sunday I had the samosa for breakfast before dashing out for errands. I ate the curry and rice as a late lunch while I made cupcakes (my son has to bring his own cake to parties). Then after the birthday party I made myself risotto. I of course followed the risotto with the leftover cheesecake.

I haven’t been eating as well as I should lately. It’s been a busy year, with a few big changes. Having a kid also means I worry about what I’m feeding him first, and me second. Which can mean I remember to pack him a lunch, but forget to pack one for myself. I make sure he eats his breakfast, but am running too late to eat one myself. Getting three good meals yesterday reminded me of how much better I function with good fuel.

When I’m active I remember to eat. You have to fuel your body to be able to run, climb, skip, or hula hoop. My ankle has been bothering me, so I haven’t been doing as much as usual. I guess without the activity my brain forgot that good fuel doesn’t just help with active pursuits, it helps creative ones as well. My thought process is better when I eat at good intervals, and I get more done when I eat a more balanced diet.

Hopefully this reminder reminds me to feed myself and my creativity over the summer. I have so many things I want to accomplish, and I can’t do any of them without fuel.

 

Creativity

green triangles for quiltingWhen I was young I never thought of myself as a creative person. I didn’t excel in art, I can’t play a musical instrument, I can’t sing, and when I started writing in junior high it was fluffy teen romance stuff. I had friends who were creative. Friends who played piano, who could dance, or who could draw.

During university I took up cross stitch. My (at the time future) mother in law was big into it and made some amazing things. She was creative, but my cross stitches were small and simple, so in my mind I was not creative. At the end of university my best friend decided to learn to knit. Since she was learning I figured I would too. I made hats, mittens, scarves, and even my only knitted sweater. I still didn’t think of myself as creative. They were simple projects and I always used a pattern.

Next I took up quilting. I read a fanfic where the main character was a quilter, and my good friend’s Mom was a quilter. I wanted to own quilts like that, so I decided to learn to quilt. I got that quilt top about half finished (it’s still on my bucket list to finish it). For the first time I felt creative. I was picking fabrics and designing patterns. I made a digger quilt top for my son from a pattern I had designed myself.

Shortly after learning to quilt I did my first NaNo. I wrote 50,000 words on a single project in a single month. It was by far the farthest into a writing project I had ever made it. It had a beginning, middle, and end. It was utter crap, and I never let anyone read it, but I was proud of what I had accomplished.

These days I know I’m creative, and if I haven’t created anything in a while I start to get a bit twitchy. Cross stitch, knitting, quilting, and writing are all different ways I choose to be creative. These days I focus my creativity on writing, but sometimes I need something a bit more meditative and I pull out my sewing machine. Last night I chain pieced the triangles you see in the image at the start of this post. They are for my shoo fly quilt. I was supposed to be writing, but my brain needed a break. I might just take another break from writing tonight to get the blocks for this quilt started. I guess it all depends on what kind of creativity I need.

What are your favourite ways to create? Do you creative in different ways depending on how you feel? or is that just me?

Getting Creative

Last weekend my son and I participated in a stuffie making course at Patch Halifax, a sewing store. The first task was to draw the animal or creature that would become our stuffed animal. He decided we would make an alien. He quickly drew the alien and we made our pattern. Then he had a great time picking out the beads for the alien’s five eyes, the fabric nose and mouth, the ribbons for his grabber hand and foot, and the Eiffel tower for his shirt. We spent our remaining time sewing and stuffing our new alien friend. The finished product is an alien so unique I am confident there isn’t another like it in the entire world.

I learned a lot in that three hour course. I learned how to make a very basic stuffed animal. I learned how to do an invisible ladder stitch. I learned that my son will draw with pencil and paper if the motivation is just right. But perhaps the most important thing I learned is that creativity can be simple, and sometimes you need to just jump in head first and see where you land.

He didn’t spend hours agonizing over exactly how that alien should look. He took the paper and pencil and got right to work. He knew he wanted a humanoid alien so that is what he drew. It wasn’t perfect the first time, but we had an eraser to help us fix any mistakes. We had to adjust the drawing to make it work for a stuffie. A few places would have been too narrow for turning, we decided to use some ribbon instead of fabric for the grabber hand, etc. He adapted his design as he gained more information.

When it came time to add the accents he didn’t restrict himself to two eyes because that is what humans have. He wanted five, one above the nose and two to either side of it. He wasn’t worried about both arms matching exactly. One had three ribbon fingers (a grabber hand), and one had a piece of red fabric that may or may not be a canon depending on the moment. The finished alien is unique and already well loved by the little boy who created him.

I can’t remember the last time I jumped right into a story without spending hours agonizing over the perfect place or way to start. It is easy to forget that no book jumps from the writers mind to the computer screen ready for publishing. There are edits that have to be made both big and small. Lately I have also been scared to step outside my comfort zone. Scared to give an alien five eyes instead of two if you will. In a few days I start NaNo for the ninth time. I have little more than an opening scene planned out in my mind. I guess I can put my new lessons to work right away.

Do you struggle with letting yourself try something new? Do you over plan when you write or do you jump right in?