To NaNo or not to NaNo

People are already talking about NaNoWriMo and it’s giving me anxiety!! 😬

After the first time I did it, I vowed never to do it again. After I did it again, I decided I wouldn’t do it again again.

I must be a sucker for punishment because I am thinking of doing it this year. With every tweet, blog article, forum post or random comment I read, I get that tiny tingle deep inside. Is this some sort of trick? Like the kind your mind plays on you when you swear you’ll only read one more chapter before turning out the lights?

Lessons from attempt #1

I pantsed (ie. did not plan) my first year. I would not do this again. This article sums up everything I didn’t like in this one paragraph:

The story changed and evolved. Occasionally, I lost my bearings, had to backpedal and try something else. Sometimes the story meandered aimlessly. Some days I sat in front of a blank page with absolutely no idea what was going to happen next.

But while the meandering and ensuing incoherence bugged me to no end, I did enjoy the process of exploration. Every turn in the story was like discovering something new. I really got to appreciate the journey and the utter triumph of making the day’s word count.

I did hit 50k before finishing my story, but another 1k after got me to the end. I did not like my first draft at all, though, and spent a lot of time completely re-writing, re-concepting and basically redoing everything. I learned it’s not enough to just start with a loose premise if the pressure’s on to hit quantity-based targets every day, because I end up making up a lot of shit. 🙂

Lessons from attempt #2

I went into my next NaNo with intent. I had characters, I had arcs, I had goals — I even had a plan for my story after the event. I wanted to write a serial novel. Big mistake.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a serial novel. But it wasn’t practical to try and do it for NaNo without properly developing the idea, doing research, etc. The pressure to churn out words exposed the weaknesses in my preparations.

After a week and a half, I lost faith in my story because the science felt really hokey. I know that’s supposed to be OK in the first draft stage, but it touched something deep inside me that I couldn’t shake. Not even going away for a NaNo writing retreat could save me.

Again, I hit 50k before the story’s end. This time, I abandoned the draft. I did learn that I’m very sensitive to my surroundings — I started working in scenes and landscapes from the retreat location into my story. Still not sure if that was a good or bad idea.

What about this year?

I’m still torn. 50k is a lot of words and I promised myself I’d take better care of my mental health from now on. That said, I have had a few short story ideas growing in the back of my mind for a while. I could play NaNo as a rebel and just get it all down. I guess we’ll see how ripe these ideas get by the time November arrives.

 


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Not writing every day

I’m having a quiet Saturday. What I mean by this is I’m probably going to end up writing just as much as on any other given day, only I don’t intend to let my obsessive self-pressure get to me if I don’t write.

Some writers can go hard every day. Some writers can go hard every day at talking about writing every day. I am neither of those. While I’m all for the idea of there being a ‘writing muscle’ you need to work out in order to strengthen, I’m also perhaps more literal than most with that metaphor.

I believe that, like the body’s muscles, the writing muscle also needs recovery and nutrition in order to strengthen:

Recovery being rest days, where you don’t write. Or at least, where you don’t make a point of sitting down to write. If it happens naturally without you expending much effort, then by all means! I’d equate that to strolling down to the shops for an ice cream rather than, say, going for a 3km power walk for the purpose of getting fit.

Nutrition being what you consume to feed your creativity. Consider this a vital indulgence like breathing, eating, drinking and sleeping.

Maybe I’m different to a lot of writers at my level in that, by default, I approach projects with an intensity that borders on unhealthy. Given this, the ‘write every day’ mantra, which others may take with a grain of salt, is a powder keg in my hands.

The pressure mounts. Stress compounds. Fatigue sets in and I start writing badly, which leads me to depression, discouragement, impostor syndrome, burnout, and getting corked (the exact opposite of what writing every day is supposed to give you).

Plus, it sucks all the fun out of it. Really, at the end of the day, I tell stories because I enjoy it, not because I have to force myself to. Improving my craft is useful, and maximising my output is what’s going to pay the bills, but if that’s all that mattered, I’d have stuck with writing technical docs instead of fiction.

Ever since removing that pressure (ie. adding creative recovery and nutrition to my routine), I’ve felt more natural and confident with my writing. Words have flowed more easily and sometimes unintentionally.

I actually hadn’t planned on writing today at all. I meant to spend 10 minutes fooling around on the internet then getting back to cleaning the house. But I glanced over a low-urgency todo list and saw write a blog post. I didn’t have to force myself. The mere suggestion was all it took for me to log into WordPress and get cracking.

Now, I’m going to force myself to recover and get nourishment. I’m going to put some dishes away, read a comic book, hit the gym and enjoy some Netflix.

Vital indulgences.

 


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Cover Reveal: Chasing Sisyphus

In less than a month, my first novel, Chasing Sisyphus, hits the shelves. Can I still say “hits the shelves”? We’re talking primarily digital, so… hits the online catalogues at major book retailers? Yes, that. 🙂

About Chasing Sisyphus

Available from September 12, 2017. A futuristic action-adventure suspense novel set in Basilica City, the capital metropolis on the eponymous Planet Basilica.

Bounty hunter Adria Yuan is hot on the trail of her final hit: a notorious hacker wanted by the city’s elite. With the reward, she can pay for her brother’s surgery and finally get out of Basilica City. Trouble is, her line of work’s not exactly legal and she’s barely staying ahead of the cops who want her target too.

Detective Rhys Carver may be a little unorthodox, but he’s a good cop. Born and bred in Basilica, he does his part to keep his city clean. As clean as it gets, at least. And with Adria suddenly in his sights, it’s going to take more than falling in love for him to let her go.

As the pair close in on their mark, they are unwittingly drawn into a high profile conspiracy that could thrust the whole of Basilica into chaos. Can Adria and Rhys set aside their differences, and their desires, to save the only home they know?

Published by Siren Bookstrand. Cover art by Harris Channing.

Chasing Sisyphus book cover

Excerpt: The Induction of Satine (WIP)

Excerpt from a current work in progress – a futuristic erotica piece, titled The Induction of Satine.

“Warden, she’s in your care now,” my captor nodded and handed me over. He spun about face and strode back to his ship.

Jet gave my arm a gentle squeeze and a calm washed over me. A sedative, no doubt. As we walked, I couldn’t help but stare at his spray of soft brown hair, bouncing with each step. His eyes were blue, striking, and his face held a firm but kind expression.

Very good looking, with strong, toned arms that guided me through the door of a small office, sat me down in a soft chair. They flexed as he moved. I barely noticed him hooking my cuffs to the table.

Admin first. He asked my name: Satine Luna.

“Luna,” he repeated. “You know, on some planets, that means ‘moon’.”

As if I hadn’t heard that one before. Normally, I’d roll my eyes and offer a snappy comeback, but I was lulled, fixated on the curve of his collarbone, his cool demeanour, and the tiny crease in the corner of his cheek when he smiled.

He introduced himself as Kensington Jet. Athletic build, highborn accent; of course he’d have a name like that. I asked what I should call him. He said “Warden Jet” would do.

Warden Jet. I imagined him lying on top of me on a warm day. No, a hot day. On a beach somewhere back on… on—

Maybe another couple more edit rounds before this one is ready. I’m excited to share this story with you. More news to come on release dates.

 


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