Lost in Nanowrimo Land

Don’t get me wrong – I love the online writing community. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in my manuscript without it. It’s been a tremendous help, both in support and advice, and I’ve connected with some really lovely people.

But…

There’s something in the culture of the community that tends to get really obsessive sometimes. Especially now – it’s November, meaning Nanowrimo, short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal for anyone that participates is to write 50k words in the month of November, usually as a first draft for a novel. It’s a challenge, so to speak.

I’m generally on board with this premise. I’m not participating, but I can understand the appeal and why people would want to give it a try. What I find a little frustrating though is the insane hype about this all around social media. No matter where you look – on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube or even Facebook of all places, nothing else is discussed but Nanowrimo.

With the added hype of October, called Preptober (well isn’t that clever), that means two whole months where the online writing community is at a full stop on all things not related to Nano. I usually try to be a positive person, but I can’t help but being a little disappointed at this. The new thing is also about not making the writing process a solitary experience, now it’s all about live streaming writing sprints (?) and being part of a team to help “win” Nanowrimo. Not participating in this has become synonymous with being an outsider in a community supposedly full of introverts. It’s madness, truthfully.

I mean sure, if you’re into that then good for you. I just find it really strange, but that’s just my opinion. I’m going to continue working on editing my manuscript and hope that the obsessiveness goes down a bit in a couple of weeks.

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How a corny teen movie can change your outlook on life

So there I was, browsing through Netflix and waiting for my newest video to load into the program, and I came across some of those typically “corny” movies that families watch around Christmas. They are full of clichées and over-the-top characters. Most of them are about teens, bonus points if they’re troubled, and the plot is all about them fighting to reach their dreams. It’s usually something active, like figure skating, gymnastics or dancing. Now, I’m a big tragedy enthusiast, but my poor little heart has a real soft spot for these movies.

I kid you not. I watched a movie called Ice Princess and cried real, adult tears. (All this girl ever wanted was to be a figure skater! Why couldn’t her mum just be supportive?!)

I realise that I’m not these movies’ typical audience, they’re generally intended for teens who’re still trying to figure out what they want from life. To be fair, I figured that out less than 10 months ago and I will be 30 next year. Come to think of it, maybe more adults should watch movies like this (I do think you need to watch alone though, as I think it would be far too easy to make fun of it if you have company).

In a way it was like a time warp and a wish fulfilment – all in one. The familiar “oh to be young again” nostalgia mixed with a nauseating remembrance of what it was like actually being a teenager. No matter how nostalgic we might feel about our teen years, in the end we’re usually pretty relieved they’re in the past.

So what did I really gain from this experience? Apart from getting really sentimental, I also found it surprisingly inspirational. No matter how ridiculous these movies can be at times, the moral of the story is usually to follow your dreams and dare to fight for them. I see so many adults that dream of doing something different with their lives, but they never actually do it. They are comfortable with their normal jobs even if it isn’t exactly what they wanted. They’re afraid to risk that comfort and go into unfamiliar territory, no matter how much they dream of it.

I was that person once, but when given an opportunity to change things – I took it. The situation I’m in now is somewhat similar. I’m determined to become a published author, and I’m fully prepared to fight for this dream to become a reality. Sometimes, we need to evoke our inner teenager to awaken that obsession that makes us go for it. I guess these corny teen movies reminded me of this – that even if I feel low or unmotivated, the fight isn’t over as long as my goal is worth it.

New week, new goals!

It’s seriously troubling how fast the weeks go by. I had planned to have my book ready for beta reads around Christmas time/end of the year, but now I’m a little worried that I won’t be able to reach that goal. I’m still working on my second draft, and I wanted to give myself a third (or even fourth) before starting to look for beta readers. Some chapters are obviously more complicated than others and would, therefore, need a little extra love before the send-off.

Like I’ve said before, I’m that kind of person who likes to worry in advance. Trust me, I am painfully aware of this flaw/quirk/issue of mine. It’s because of this that I have to try and ignore some anxiety-inducing thoughts if I want to be able to do anything at all, instead of just worrying about it in en endless loop of what-ifs.

With that in mind, here’s what I hope to be able to achieve this week:

WRITING: I want to finish editing my mid-point, meaning chapter 13 and 14. It was only one chapter at first, but as I was editing it I realised it was far too cluttered and busy so I decided to split it. I’m already about half-way through chapter 13 so, hopefully, this won’t be too much.

YOUTUBE: I want to prepare, film and edit a video on my comparison between The Ladies’ Paradise – the novel – and The Paradise – the tv series. This will complete my video review of the book that I made last week. I’ve made some really interesting observations that I would like to share. After this however, it’s back to writing vlogs.

OTHER: I will try to stay on top of Instagram updates and some blogging, but I’m not pressuring myself too hard with that this week.

So – those were my goals for this week! It feels like quite a lot, I must say, and I might have to sacrifice some evenings as well. But I know it will be worth it in the end. In my point of view, there’s no greater satisfaction that the feeling of accomplishment.

Have a great Monday everyone!

The bravery and vulnerability of being a writer

Most writers that I talk to all seem to have one thing in common: we’re all incredibly self-conscious of anything that we create. We are our own worst critics, this is a hard truth indeed.

The reason behind this isn’t that we don’t enjoy our stories. We have, after all, crafted them carefully with the intent of them being good. We pour our hearts and souls into our work, and by doing so, it makes us all the more vulnerable. The mere thought of another person reading our work and finding it bad is the most terrifying thought.

Someone once said that it is only when facing our fears that we can truly be brave. I find that this resonates well with the idea of publishing a book. All authors, no matter their level of success, have gone through this act of bravery when publishing their books. And I dare say that all of them, again – no matter their level of success – must have found it utterly terrifying.

We have this intense hope within us that our books will speak to their readers. That we will be able to connect with other people through our stories. This is why we must open ourselves up to vulnerability, because if we don’t, then how are we supposed to achieve this? It’s a great risk for sure. There is no guarantee that success will follow just because you write with your heart and soul.

I haven’t published any books yet, but in my case, making the decision to self-publish was still quite scary. I know which road to take. It’s up to me now to continue down this road, to eventually take that leap of bravery – but without the affirmation of a traditional publisher in my corner. It’s amazing how you can both look forward to something as well as dread it. I suppose only time will tell what happens at the end of it.

What writers can learn from the classics

I recently finished reading The Ladies’ Paradise, written by Émile Zola, first published in 1883. To be fair, I hadn’t heard of this book before so I’m not sure how much of a cult classic it is, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I found it interesting, to say the least. There were a lot of issues of course, especially regarding the characters, and I will go through this in more detail in my upcoming review/discussion vlog that I’m filming today. I also had some issues with the pacing and such, but what I’d like to talk about here is that special little je ne sais quoi that this book has.

Firstly, it gives the reader an incredible insight into the inner workings of the 19th century Parisian department store. From a business perspective, it’s very interesting indeed. In a time before computers and digital currency, a business of this scale was like a clockwork of processes all depending on human diligence to function. I was very much intrigued by this.

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I always say that I don’t like it when historical fiction portrays a romanticised picture of the past – which brings me to my next point. As this is a Naturalist work of fiction, it is rather the opposite. The harsh reality of the 1800s is ever-present in this book. Most of the side characters, if not all of them, get unhappy or even tragic endings. The main character goes through some awful circumstances as well such as poverty and starvation. Never, not even once, is this portrayed as something romantic. It’s gritty and gruelling, and I absolutely love it.

Therefore, I find it difficult to say for sure what I thought about this book. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I find that the plot and the characters are the most important elements of any good book – and in this case, it didn’t really have any of that. What it did have though was an amazing setting and some interesting prose (unless it went completely nuts, which happened quite a lot).

All in all, I would say that anyone who’s interested in learning more about the developments of business and capitalism in 1800s Paris will have a fairly nice read, whereas if you want a nice period love story, you might get disappointed. I suppose that’s where my biggest problem was; I went in expecting something entirely different than what I ended up getting.

Vlog is now up!

My first writing vlog is officially up! If you are in any way interested in discussing writing, writing first drafts and editing chapters, feel free to give it a watch and let me know if you agree, or if you have different views and experiences. (And yes, it’s rather embarrassing that I just now figured out that I could just paste the link in the blog post.)

Quiet morning

I’m currently sitting o20180814_163241n my blue couch, eating breakfast and watching a Netflix documentary on the trilogy Back to the future. I love quiet weekend mornings. Just had a lovely walk with Niles in the sleepy neighbourhood, strolling about in the weak, morning sun. I find the empty streets so calming. Since we live in the city center, we rarely get that quiet calm. So I have to enjoy it while it lasts.

Today’s going to be a productive day. Oskar is away on a boat convention, so I thought I’d focus on getting some work done! I want to finish up my world map 2.0 (will be talking about the mapping process in worldbuilding in next week’s video). If I manage to finish today I’ll move on to some editing. Or just, if my hand starts to protest. Drawing is hard, guys.

So yeah. That’s about it! My productive, quiet Saturday calls.

Cheers people.

Thoughts on maturity and writing ambitions

Let me tell you a little story about a young, naïve girl who wanted to be a writer. She had been writing a lot throughout her childhood, creating stories mostly for her own enjoyment, but with that inevitable dream of one day making that into a career. If you haven’t figured it out already, that girl was me.

Writing a novel is insanely hard, I realised. The years went on, and many unfinished projects eventually became one finished. I was eighteen, fresh out of high school with the intellectual and emotional maturity of a teenager – and the apparent self-confidence of five adults. With support from my mum and one teacher I sent my manuscript off to the publishers. Naturally, it was rejected.

It was a devastating blow for me. My confidence broke down completely and I stopped writing for quite some time. It took me years to realise that I wasn’t in fact a bad writer. I was just an immature one.

As a teenager, everything needs to happen quickly – there’s no patience for any slow-paced development. I would dive head first into any skill that I wanted to learn, and I wanted to master it immediately. At fifteen, I wanted to start sewing my own clothes, so I got a sewing machine and enough fabric to make me a dress. I was completely overwhelmed and never finished the project. A bit later I had a similar experience with oil painting, and the huge canvas gathered dust in my room for years before I eventually threw it out. Judging by this, it was hardly suprising to anyone that I also wanted to be a published author before turning twenty.

It doesn’t work that way. I had made a habit of rushing into things that I wasn’t ready for, and even worse, expecting to be brilliant at without a learning curve. Starting small was out of the question, what sort of achievement would that be? In retrospect, I needed the wake-up call that was the rejection of my book.

So, I took some years off in regards to my writing ambition. I started working, moved to another country, began studies at uni and filled my life with new experiences, travelling and adventures. I also learned some hard lessons of grief, poverty, heartbreak and what to do in desperate situations. I guess the hardest lesson of them all is that you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’ve really suffered, and managed to fix it all on your own. (That is an achievement to be proud of.)

In five days time I’ll be turning twenty-nine. It has been ten years since my first manuscript was rejected. A little while back, I finished the first draft of a new novel. It took me six months, and will most likely take even longer to edit – and I’m ok with that.

With self-publishing becoming more and more popular, teenage writers now have the opportunity that I didn’t ten years ago – to publish their books themselves, traditional publishers be damned. I’m not saying that maturity is required to be a writer. But I think most writers would agree with me in that it’s very hard to be a convincing writer before you’ve actually lived a little (and of course, there are always exceptions).

I might be stepping on some toes here, but it’s just my opinion based on my own experience. If anyone feels differently, I have nothing against a healthy, respectful discussion.

Doodles & Travel preparations

The last couple of days have been rather pleasant. I’ve gotten some work done on my manuscript – I’m currently editing chapter 3 (second draft). I always get anxious when I haven’t looked at it for a few days in a row, and thanks to the tragedy that was my video editing adventure, I fell behind quite a lot on that. So it feels great to be back on track again.

On a different note, I also got to try out my new pigment liner pens. Every since I got Skillshare, I’ve been wanting to develop my water colouring as well as drawing skill, preferably together. I used to be really good at drawing, but it is definitely a skill you need to maintain in order to keep sharp. I have been playing around with the idea of making some concept art for my manuscript using water colours, but I will need to practice a bit before I feel ready to dive into that.

 

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My doodles!

I’ve also been doing some preparations for our upcoming sailing trip! Indeed, we will be going out early tomorrow morning, aiming to be away for about 5 days. We’ve never been away longer than 24hrs on that boat before, so it was kind of tricky to do the meal planning – especially since we don’t have a fridge. But I think I got it covered with lots of whole grain biscuits, fruits and bread with marmelade for breakfast. We do have a small cooker, so we can heat up canned soups or boil water for noodles for lunch as long as we’re docked in a port (would be pretty dangerous to cook while out at sea). Thankfully, we plan on eating out for dinner. And beer, we’ve also bought a lot of beer, so now we know we’re all set.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be updating my blog while we’re away. I did get the WordPress app, so I know I should be able to, but technology is not exactly my forté. I’m also not sure how my internet connection will be once we get to our main destination – the island of Ven between Sweden and Denmark. But I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a lot of fun with plenty of quality time with Oskar and our dog Niles, with fresh, sea air as well as some island hiking.

Guilty pleasures galore!

The tapas was magnificent, thanks for asking.

Today, I find myself (not) enjoying the consequences of yesterday’s feast. I am however of the opinion that the occasional decadence is never a bad thing, and since my hangover is the result of a very pleasant evening, it would be contradictory of me to complain. So I won’t.

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This is the view from our balcony, where said feast took place yesterday evening. Although the camera couldn’t capture the exact ambiance of this summer sunset, it’s still a very cosy photo.

I had planned on editing my next video today (indeed, I managed to film it yesterday – hence all the prosecco), but alas, I don’t think I’ll be able to. I have only just switched to another video editing program, and I still find it horribly uncooperative. I am somewhat of a dyslectic when it comes to all things technical – so you can imagine my struggle. It was a necessary change, though, as my old one didn’t have enough features to make decent quality videos (that’s what you get for choosing software with the skill level requirement of a toddler).

Therefore, I have come to terms with the fact that today won’t be as productive as yesterday. I’m thinking Netflix, lots of elderberry juice and perhaps fried bacon for dinner.