Thursday, November 9, 2017

Underdog Battle

This month is the writing challenge known as Nanowrimo. Since my first time participating in 2010 I have successfully completed it six times though currently only one of those books has gone on to be edited or published. The rest sit idly by waiting for me to get off my butt and progress on their respective tales. I hesitated to participate again this year because my schedule is so out of whack but ultimately I couldn't deny my need to create and finish the trilogy part of the series Nanowrimo has helped me bring to life over the last few years.

In the past I have had days where I would struggle to meet my regular word count. I have fallen behind on many occasions and only a handful of days was I ever ahead. Today I find myself even further behind than ever before however. If I were on target with my word count I would be crossing the fifteen thousand mark by the end of the day. Instead I am hovering around twelve hundred. It seems a near impossible feat to cover trying to not only make up the words I am behind but to also continue on and cross the finish line of fifty thousand words by the end of the month.

I would love to say I am determined. I am not a quitter. I push through adversity in order to accomplish all my goals. My history would suggest otherwise though. I have been known to quit when things seemed too difficult. The most important thing at this point is to know how I thrive under deadlines. I have come from behind before and I am hoping to do so once again. I have en entire list of edits and rewrites but it would mean the world to me to add just one more book to that list and begin the journey forward with a nearly completed series.

When I read the book No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the creator of Nanowrimo, I understood immediately when he mentioned the need for a looming deadline to push people forward. That unused chart I haven't updated this month is waiting for me. It is a beast with teeth that grow with each passing day as it lays dormant, waiting to see if my desire to write or my schedule will be the ultimate victor this month. I have been an underdog before and come out on top. Tonight I will march on to see if once again my writing David will defeat the time constraints of Goliath.

Monday, November 6, 2017

What Helps

Recently I had a discussion about Nanowrimo with a fellow author. She is adamantly against it and from her reasoning and perspective I understand why. She doesn't think people should wait until a dingle month out of the year to work on things and that since it isn't a "real" competition and don't win anything tangible that there is no driving force to push people to do the writing they should be doing year round. I understand, I don't agree.

I am someone who participates in Nanowrimo almost every year. I understand it is more for bragging rights and a personal sense of accomplishment than anything but there is something about that looming deadline that is compelling for me. Unfortunately I have proven in several aspects of my life that self imposed deadlines mean nothing. I say I want to lose weight and as soon as I do I can buy a new outfit, then I continue to stress eat and either gain or simply not lose any weight. However having a set date and a consequence for not achieving that goal got me to my target weight a week early.

I cannot go to the gym and workout. I have to go and train. I need a half marathon, distance bike ride, obstacle course, dance performance or other planned activity to be working toward. Otherwise I find myself going through the motions instead of pushing myself as hard as I can. Writing is the same way. I know Nanowrimo has a deadline at the end of November and while it isn't a deadline that has any money or tangible items attached to it, if I miss the deadline I have to wait an entire year to try again. I can finish the book later but there is something magical about hitting the submission button and seeing the WINNER banner appear across your name on the site.

Like anything else in life, there are two sides. I know people that feel it is nothing but words thrown at a page to se what sticks and the books written within that month long journey don't and never will amount to anything worthwhile. For me I think the main point is don't knock something just because it isn't your personal option. I love being a part of the community and not stressing over every little word choice. I enjoy taking the journey with my characters because it happens so quickly even I don't know what's coming next. Whether it is Nanowrimo giving a deadline, yoga for clearer thinking or taking a backpack and a pad with a pen along for a cross country train ride for new perspectives, we all have things that work for us. The important part is finding the ones that work for you then using them to your fullest advantage.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November 3rd

Today is November 3rd. For most people that means very little. It might be a reminder to take down the Halloween decorations or put up the Thanksgiving or possible Christmas ones. People may start making lists to prepare for the upcoming holidays. There are shopping and Christmas card lists, meals to plan or other family obligations to consider. However for hundreds of thousands of people around the world November 3rd means something entirely different, Day 3 of Nanowrimo.

I have participated for years in the annual writing challenge. Some years I knew months in advance what I would be working on while other times I would pick something at random within days of the start. One year I even decided to begin writing over a week in and used a previously written short story as the base and expended it into a full length novel. This year was one of the advanced planning years. I had thought it would be a good time to work on book 3 in my Voices series. I didn't have a specific plot for the book but then again I went in somewhat blind last year on book 2 and loved the outcome.

The concern I have is time. I am currently working two jobs. Not huge issue since I have done that before. Yet, in previous years, I worked double shifts on some days and had others off entirely which allowed me to get up and go work on my writing for hours at a time. This go round I find myself working every single day on varying shifts. There are still doubles on several occasions but there are no days off. While I am working I am also fighting my ongoing health issues and projects at home. My boyfriend and I have decided to downsize our living situation and so have been sorting through all of our belongings as well as searching for our next home and preparing our current house to go on the market. I am also still working diligently on preparations for the charity event I co-founded coming up in February. All of these things together add up to a distinct lack of free time.

I know people say it is fine if you don't hit the goal, or set a personal one that is easier for you and your situation. The problem is I don't like to do things halfway. If I go for something, I go all in. I will not lower the goal just to say I did something. It is all of nothing and I am trying to  decide if possible Nanowrimo simply isn't in the cards for me this year. I suspect the rest of the day will be a pros and cons conversation with myself to determine which direction I will end up going.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sacrifice For Art

Sitting in a Facebook group for writers the other day I saw the same questions followed by the same answers flowing by that sen to crop up each week. As I scrolled down I was about to find a different group to lurk in when I saw a post asking how dedicated we all were to our art. What would we be willing to sacrifice in order to further pursue our chosen art forms. It got me thinking again about the decision I have recently made to downsize.

There are a number of advantages to living a more simplified life but one of the biggest selling points for me was that by saving time and money I could put more effort into my writing. My boyfriend and I are now working hard to prepare for an eventual move to a tiny house / RV lifestyle. We would be able to pick up and go anytime we wanted and the lower bills, maintenance and energy, as well as the flexibility would allow me to eventually write full time. That was all that needed to be said for me to start examining the cabinets, drawers and closets for items I no longer need in order to make downsizing easier when we reach that point.

Giving things up can be difficult, that is why we call it sacrificing. The fact of the matter is, for me at least, it isn't a sacrifice. It is a determination that something else is more important. I talk to people all the time who hate their jobs. However when I ask them, why not just leave, they scoff at the idea. How could they ever dream of giving up their paycheck, their benefits, their schedule, etc? Look for a different job with similar money and benefits and think about the long term effects of less stress by doing something you enjoy is always my answer. I am told I live in a fantasy land.

I have said my entire life that I would rather do something I love for 8.00 an hour than something I hate for 100.00 an hour. Those are obviously extreme pay differences and like everyone I would be willing to compromise in some places but the overall fact remains, life isn't about money to me. I want to be happy, do something that fulfills my heart and soul as well as cover my obligations. Keep in mind I said obligations though, I don't care about being rich. I don't need fancy cars, a big house, or flashy jewelry. I want to write, travel to see the world, and share my adventures with my friends and family. I am choosing a lifestyle which allows me to do exactly what I want. Some might fear sacrificing the current for the unknown but I cannot wait for the adventure to begin.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Making Your Point

I recently read a book about minimizing your life. In fact I stayed up late last night in order to finish it. It touts the benefits of simplifying and removes many narrow definitions of what it means to live a simplified life. The chapters are broken down in a progression of how the idea was brought to the author's attention to things he did to start his transition. It moves on to give practical advice on ways to remove clutter from your home then makes even more radical suggestion for downsizing house, vehicles, and everything right down to the applications on your smart phone. The last few chapters talk about removing intangible things like hours of television watching or frivolous items from your daily schedule. Finally it turns the tables and suggests ways to take your new found time and money you have saved to put it to good use.

I agree with the overall premise of the book. I have already put into motion a number of the suggestions into practice. My biggest problem with the book is the way the author presented his ideas. Because he is a man of strong faith and spending more time at the church was part of his motivator, the book comes across very preachy. At the end of the book he discusses using your newly acquired savings of money and time to devote to volunteering. Again I agree, to a point. He spends more than half the book talking about how minimizing will allow your dreams to come true, that you will have resources you never knew you had before, and how they can be used to fulfill your dreams of travel, spending time with your family, or whatever other passions you may have.

At the end however he proclaims loud and long that doing anything for yourself is basically a waste of these new found resources. Over and over he drills in his belief that time, money, and anything else gained by your newly minimized life should be spent solely in the pursuit of bettering others. I am not against volunteering. I spent two days following the tragedy that happened in my beautiful Las Vegas building a park for the victims and survivors in order to give people a chance to grieve. I work with a number of animal organizations and donate time and items to a local domestic abuse shelter. All of these things are passions of mine and I wouldn't dream of giving them up. I also have my toys such as skis and a kayak. I also go out with my friends and spend entire days in coffeeshops working on my own pursuits. I don't feel guilty about any of it.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that giving advice is one thing but preaching your ideas and trying to force people to see things from your perspective is entirely different. Strangely enough I think many of the suggestions presented in the book are wonderful and I am thrilled to be making changes to move forward in my goals. I will struggle to recommend the book however, because I honestly feel put off by the forcefulness of his methods. You can make your point without holding people hostage to it. Present the ideas and let people use them as they see fit instead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Changing Tides

One of the biggest things we have to work on as writers is our marketing efforts. This subject has been on my mind a lot recently following the Las Vegas Book Festival last weekend and then having a conversation about it again today. There is a sign on the wall in the heart of the building that reads "The Life Behind The Luxury". It shows some of the people that work in our hotel and casino and is an advertisement meant to inspire us to get to know the people around us that help bring the luxury to our guests.

One of my fellow dealers quipped "Maybe someone should tell the players that this is a luxury hotel". He was referring to the change in clientele we have all noticed over the years. We no longer see people dressing up to play cards or saving up for that once a year special vacation. Trips aren't about spending hours gambling or shopping for the high end toys and accessories to add to the collections of possessions when they get back home to their regular lives. Now we see people flood the casino with name badges from their conferences and trade shows, pool party fanatics in their swimsuits and sandals, and of course the sports lovers crowding the sports book every weekend to root on their favorites teams.

In the opinion of some of my co-workers the casino has fallen but I see it differently. I see the marketing trend for my location as it heads toward the conventions. We are a destination for meetings and conferences for all sizes. In that way the marketing is working splendidly. There is also the matter of people viewing "Luxury" in a completely different way now than they did twenty years ago. Those with disposable income tend to be younger and have a focus more on experience than on things. This makes those in jobs like table games dealing less needed.

Writing can be viewed similarly in that we need to look at trends like ebooks, social media marketing and useable swag as ways to connect with our readers. We no longer send newsletters through snail-mail, it now needs to be online and interactive in order to secure the attention we aspire to. I understand the frustrations of my fellow dealers and those writers who, like me, began before Amazon was even in existence. The fact of the matter however is that in order to stay relevant you must change with the times. I am working in both my writing and my day job to do exactly that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Saying It Differently

I was flipping through Facebook when I happened on a post in a writer's group. In honor of Halloween this month the person wanted people to post what they do for a living but make it sound scary. I told people I rob people as the voluntarily hand over their money. I manipulate their minds and drive them to alcohol fueled bad decision making before sending them off to beg for the chance to be a victim once more. As many here know, I deal table games in a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. There is nothing honestly sinister about it but it made me stop and think about the way we say things and how the words we choose can have a strong effect on how we are perceived.

I write a number of different genres and it can be difficult when I am editing a romance to work on getting a few thousand words in on my current thriller then jump to working on the synopsis for my historical fantasy and finally move on to t-shirt design with humorous themes. I can be hard to come up with different words to use but sometimes it isn;t the words at all but how they are arranged. Most of us have used or at least heard the phrase, "It isn't what you said, it's how you said it." That one little phrase could be a mantra for writers.

We are always so careful to pick just the right words to express our meaning but at times we forget about the tone of the story, the mood of the character and all of the non-verbal cues that can be used to help demonstrate our message even more effectively than the words themselves. In many ways this falls back to the term "Show, don't tell". It is better to take the reader along n an emotional rollercoaster ride and have them experience what the character is going through then to simply state what is happening. I personally prefer a combination of the two.

I am working on the showing part. Whenever I find myself explaining things to my reader I step back and ask if there is a way I can demonstrate it instead. I also do my best to find words in dialogue that lead to visceral reactions. I want those words to have wight. It is my goal for the reader to see the character driving down the highway on that windy, rainy night. I want them to feel the rumble of the engine as the character pushes the accelerator a little too far for the weather and the way the tires slip just slightly on the slick turn. Hear the howling wind outside the windows and know the heat inside the car isn't the air blowing from the vents but the white-hot rage as the guy behind the wheels mutters half finished thoughts of revenge. I don't want the reader to take an aerial view of this scene but sit in the passenger seat and grip the dashboard for dear life.

Sometimes it is easy to get caught up and forget that words are a writer's friend in every sense. We have so many options when using them and it is fun to refresh some of those styles now and then.