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?

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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?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?

Planning Ahead

I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to be prepared, and I like to think ahead. Of course I often don’t have time to plan ahead on everything, and sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out. Maybe a better statement is that I try to plan ahead.

As I have begun completing my first quilts, I’ve been looking ahead to new ones. Currently I have two quilts that need to be moved through the next stage. The first is the Mystery Quilt that needs to be quilted and bound so it is ready before the baby it is intended for is here. The second is my son’s bed quilt that needs to be pieced into the completed top.

My lap quilt top is finished, but until I have time and space to quilt it, it will stay as is. What this all means is that very soon I’ll have space in my quilting to start a new quilt top. Making the blocks and putting them into a finished top is my favourite part of quilting. The quilt tops I’d love to make at some point are:

  1. Pow Wow type quilt for my Mother. She likes the look, and I like that it has a flying geese type piece that would be new to me.
  2. Carpenter’s Wheel big block quilt. I really want to try Y-seams. This one won’t come until after the first though.
  3. A Moonlight Starts quilt. This would be made as an upgrade to the lap quilt I made for my husband. I’ll probably end up making this one sometime after the pow-wow and before the Carpenter’s Wheel. He really wants a quilt made entirely by me.
  4. A wrapped in Red quilt. I wouldn’t do this with Christmas fabrics. It would probably be red and white though. Since this one would be for my bed and much bigger than anything else I’ve made. I would make the top, but I’ll pay someone to do the quilting on it. Who knows when I will get around to this one!

Most likely the lap quilt for mom will be the first I make. It will be fun to pick the fabrics with her, and then make the top. The quilting on it will be a little ways down the road, but she is always very understanding of how long projects take me.

Do you plan a few quilts in advance? What projects are you working on right now?

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?

2016 in Review

Last year I posted regularly for most of the year. My biggest break was from mid-November until now. Here are a few stats, and a short list of my favourite posts from last year.
Total number of blog posts: 77
Top five posts by views:
  1. NaNoWriMo – How to catch up if you’re behind – this is the only post on this list that wasn’t posted in 2016.
  2. Finding my Priorities – again
  3. April Quilting Update
  4. Fourth is a tie between 500 Words – The Tarot Reading and
  5. Making a Fauxdori

A Countdown of my Five Favourite Posts:

5.) Why did I Read that Book?: A post talking about the reasons why I read the books I read.

4.) Tracking my Writing Goals: A look at the spreadsheet I use to track my writing and the stats it produces.

3.) June Quilting Update: I finished my first quilt in May for my son’s seventh birthday. It is a digger quilt that my son cuddles with everyday. The finish was a long time coming.

2.) 500 Words – The Tarot Reading: Last year my second favourite post was a 500 word post as well. This one is my favourite of all the flash fiction I’ve posted.

1.) Inside Out – A new way to develop characters?: A post looking at a new way to develop characters. I often still consider my characters in terms of these five traits.

Visitors from around the world. I had visitors from 25 countries last year. The top five were: Canada (my home country, so not a big surprise), the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Highest Activity Month
March was again the most active month on my blog, but this year I had several other months that came close.

What was your favourite post this year, on your own blog or someone else’s blog? Do you track the views on your blog?

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?

November Goals

In October my goals were:

  1. Get a sewing/writing area set up in the Study. – nope
  2. Finish my NaNo novel outline. – A good start, but nope
  3. Make my travellers notebook. – Done!
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month. – Done!

I did manage to get two more boxes of stuff out of the study in the month of October. It wasn’t nearly enough to pull out my current desk and replace it with the new one. The biggest stumbling block in this room is that we often shove stuff in there that we don’t know where else it should go. I think I need to focus on getting some basement stuff cleared out to make room for some of the stuff in this room.

For the novel outline, I have a really good handle on the first third of the novel. I’ve started working toward the second third, but I haven’t written any of it down yet. I think this will be one of those years where I write to the end of what I have and then start scrambling for what comes next. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

My goals for November are:

  1. Win NaNoWriMo for the tenth year.
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three big ticket items in the basement.
  3. Exercise (run or bike) 6 times.
  4. Use my bullet journal for the entire month.

I’m keeping it light and simple this month. Mostly because that first one is going to eat up most of my free time this month as it has in other years. As my husband likes to say, “in November I might as well be a widower”. I don’t think it is actually that bad, but I do see his point. Writing 50k, in a month, on top of your usual life, is kind of a big time sucker.

Have you set any goals for this month? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Getting Ready for NaNo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and it’s time to get ready. I need characters, a plot, and a setting. I’ve had the basics for quite a while, but I need to get down to the nitty gritty. I need more than this person did this thing, then a bunch of stuff happens, and this is the end. In my current outline I have over half the novel sketched out as “Insert Adventure here”. That isn’t going to fly when it comes time to start writing out that adventure.

Yesterday I found some time at a coffee shop to sketch out the history of this particular character. It was very helpful, and necessary work, but it hasn’t helped advance my plot at all. I also spent a bit of time sketching out the motivations for some of the minor characters. Again, necessary work, but it isn’t helping to advance my plot outline directly.

Tonight I plan to finish sketching out the minor characters for the first location in the novel. Then I’m going to plot out how the Main Character and her frenemy get off the first planet and started on the main adventure. All that really means though is that the hard work start tomorrow. Because that is when I have to solve the question of what does “Insert Adventure here” mean in this particular novel.

Have you got your novel all planned out for NaNo? Are you someone who uses placeholders like “Insert Adventure here” while plotting out a novel?