Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let the Second Guessing Begin!

We are now a little more than a day away from the start of NaNoWriMo.  At this point, I was hoping to have started my character outlines and have a general story outline ready.  Instead, I basically took the last three days to play with my kids, celebrate my birthday (and try out my new Keurig- addicting!) and stalk Facebook and Twitter for all things Hurricane Sandy related.  Basically anything other than making a decision as to what I'm going to write about.

Then, I had a middle of the night brainstorm.  I came up with an idea on a subject that is by no means original, but I think could be a take on it which is original.  At least, I could not find any books similar enough to make me nervous.  In fact, the only two I did find that were close, were books I have on my Amazon Wish List- but have not read yet.  So basically, I am going to wait on buying them to make sure I do not get influenced by what that author did.

So back to my amazingly original idea.  The problem with middle of the night brainstorms is either you really did come up with a good idea, or in the haze of sleep deprivation, you came up with absolute crap that just sounded good at the time.  So I jotted down a few notes and sent them off to E to help figure out whether my idea was workable, or whether I needed to start thinking about this after drinking at least 2 cups of coffee.  Added bonus, by waiting on E's response, I bought myself a little longer to procrastinate actually making a decision.  I really do have a thing for deadlines.  Sigh.

So now that I have my "subject," what's the next step?  NaNo floods your e-mail, Facebook and twitter with all kinds of helpful information, but there is just no way to keep up with everything.  Instead, I think I am going to take the next day and try to map out a few key things I want to happen in my story, and start getting to know my main characters.  Of course, there is always the chance I wind up hating everything about my idea and decide to start over... so, let the second guessing begin!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

So I have been mulling over a story option to use for NaNo, and just when I thought I knew which way I was leaning, I went on Amazon (FYI: I blame my procrastination on my awesome sisters-in-law who gave me a GC to help support my addiction... just saying.)  Anyway, I was reading a summary of a book I was considering and it was almost exactly the story I was thinking of writing.  Which makes me wonder, is this just a freaky coincidence, or did I previously read the description and just forgot?

My biggest concern is to make my book original.  Obviously, no one wants to copy another author's work.  But further, I really don't want my story to be even close to another author's work, for fear I would be constantly comparing the two, and finding mine lacking.  So the question is, how do you take a common theme and make it yours?  By way of example, there are a lot of people who have written about vampires (disclaimer: I've probably read a lot of those books!)  The trick is, to make it different from say Twilight.  Is there really a way to address these common themes in original ways, or are we all doomed to be a sort of fan fiction ripping off other author's ideas?

I am not really sure what the answer is, I just know I am holding out hope I can come up with an idea of how to address what is probably not a unique topic in a new and creative way.  I know the best way to do that is to come up with my own characters who are well developed and who readers can relate to (or at least characters who I relate to as I may be the only one to read this!)  Which means, I am basically back to the drawing board.

I have two potential story lines I am considering, but both have complications for me to consider.  One story I have developed a little more in my head but it involves me writing scenes I am not sure I am comfortable with yet (i.e., romance).  The second story is less developed but which I am a little more drawn to, but it involves a type of character who was previously addressed by a writer who I love.  I think I am leaning towards the latter at this point, but it is obviously a HUGE concern of mine to write about a character who was previously addressed by a writer I respect, even tangentially.  I mean, I love how she did it in her book, so the question is how can I do it differently?  The one positive with this storyline; however, is that this character was not her main character, but it was a significant one.

Of course, in the end, I am just hoping to come up with something uniquely mine, even if I am the only one who will read it.  So I think I will brainstorm a little more and hope to come up with my brilliant original idea, or at least my original take on a more common idea.  One way I will be doing this is by using the worksheets sent out by the NaNo contributors.  I find it amazing how many published authors, including quite a few authors whose books I have read, have taken the time to send out advice to aspiring writers.  I can honestly say, in the few days I've been working on this, I have already learned so much.  There are also a few writers who have their own blogs which I follow (i.e., stalk).  Most of these authors have written at some point about their writing process.  Again, this advice has been invaluable to me even at these beginning stages.  I have quite a few of the pages bookmarked for further review.  

As for coming up with my final plan, well I have three days until NaNo starts, so knowing me, I won't have made a final decision until the last possible second.  Here's hoping it is the right decision!

So over this weekend I have:

  1. Found out my brilliant original idea, is actually not so original;
  2. Scrapped said unoriginal idea;
  3. Got distracted on Amazon adding quite a few new books to my already overloaded wish list;
  4. Took time out to celebrate my 35th birthday (more like freak out over the idea I could possibly be that old);
  5. Come up with a game plan to make a decision on a new storyline; and
  6. Write this blog entry to procrastinate actually making said decision :)
If anyone who writes (or is attempting NaNo) is actually reading this blog, I am wondering how you address the concern that your storyline was likely already done.  You know the saying, there are no new ideas only new takes on those ideas... or maybe I made that up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm Supposed To Know What I'm Writing About?

I am a procrastinator by nature.  I have good intentions, but poor execution.  So now that I decided I want to write, I needed to find something to help keep me motivated.  In stalking, I mean following, a few of my favorite authors and book bloggers, I learned about a "competition," called NaNo in support of National Novel Writing Month, which happens to start on November 1st.  Perfect!  Basically, you pledge to finish a novel in 30 days- how hard can that be?!?!  Ha!  There are all kinds of word count competitions and "write-ins" to help keep you motivated, as well as virtual moral support from other writers "competing."  They also encourage you to find a critique partner.  

This sounded great to me- just enough pressure to help keep me motivated, interaction with other aspiring writers in the area, but nothing too intrusive to my already hectic life.  As much as I want to do this, it is just not realistic at this point to think I can write all day long, my kids are young and do not believe in quiet time.  So I will need to fit any writing in during naps and/or after bedtime.  It is a good thing I gave up cleaning years ago!  I am hoping even with these restrictions, I will be able to meet my goal of just completing my story.  Basically, the competition is set up so that anyone who hits 50,000 words, "wins."  You don't have to actually complete your book- and in fact, it will definitely need massive revisions.  It is just a way to get started without worrying too much about the editing process.

So I happily signed up and started filling out my "author" profile, which was kind of neat.  However, step two was to name your novel, as well as fill in some information regarding what you are going to write.  Say what?  I have to actually know what I want to write about?  I mean, how do you decide your subject matter?  Or even your genre for that matter?  I am still not exactly sure of the difference between YA and New Adult.  

Sounds kind of obvious, but for a first time writer, I have NO CLUE how to actually start the process of choosing a subject for my book.  So here is what I did:
  1. Went to Target and bought some awesome new notebooks and pens;
  2. Complained to E that I have no clue what I am doing;
  3. Started jotting notes to at least 7 or 8 different ideas, all of which seem really stupid upon further review;
  4. Skimmed the forums posted on the NaNo blog and learned a lot of the participants have been getting ready since last year, or at least since they started mailing reminders in early October;
  5. Complained to The Commissioner that I have no clue what I am doing;
  6. Checked my e-mail, twitter and Facebook a million times; 
  7. Bought a few new books for my kindle (hey, it should be considered research for my writing now); and
  8. Completed a tour of Scrivener (which I think I am going have to redo several times to have any hope of understanding how to use this program- not as self-explanatory and user friendly as I was hoping- but seriously cool.)
Basically, everything other than actually brainstorming an idea (including writing this blog).  So while sitting down for dinner, (mind you with a 3 year old and a 7 month old also at the table), I mentioned to The Commissioner my biggest concern is that when I start to write, I'll find that my obviously brilliant and original idea for a book, was actually already the basis of another author's story, and not different enough from what I'm doing so that half-way through I'll lose steam and have to start over.  I then proceeded to give him a few ideas of what I was thinking of writing about.

This is a mistake in that The Commissioner does not have the same interests as I do when it comes to reading.  I mean to say he barely reads.  I do not understand this at all, but I've accepted that he has other endearing qualities to make up for it.  In turn, he teases me endlessly about my love of all things YA.  Anytime he sees me reading, his first question will always be, "Reading Twilight again?"  But he did come up with something useful in that he encourages me to just pick a subject and not worry about what is going to happen down the line, especially if the goal is just to actually complete my first novel. (Although, in my head, I am already a huge success and having fun going on book tours with E across the country.  Ha!)  

In the NaNo forums, one other piece of advice given that sticks with me is that there are no new ideas, just new ways to look at them.  Each author will bring new things to the table because we are each unique.

By the end of the night, I actually have my ideas down to two topics from the eight or so I was considering.  I think I will need to sketch them out a little in my new serious writer notebooks before I make a final decision.  Mostly, because I have no clue how to outline on Scrivener.  I am sure there is a way, but I only have maybe five more days before I am supposedly starting to write my first novel.  So I think I will keep it simple and just try to sketch outlines by hand in my notebooks and see which story I am more drawn to (i.e., which one is going to keep my interest for more than a week!)    

Ok, well one day into this and I am already freaked out- sounds about right!  Good thing I bought some new books on my kindle to distract me- I'm off to read "Twilight" again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

No Turning Back...

That was the subject line of my e-mail to my best friend, (who I will refer to as "E," for now on), wherein I announced I was going to be a writer.  This was not the first time I have made a job announcement to her as I am a former lawyer, who was at one point thinking of going into teaching, but wound up as a stay-at-home mom trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Yeah, try making that resume!  Like I said, this is not my first time making a decision regarding, "what I want to be when I grow up," but this is the first time I would truly like it to work out.  So after deciding, I immediately announced it to E, so it would seem more "real."  She is my accountability person after all.

Her response was amazing.  Honestly, I have told two people, my husband and E, and both were like 'well yeah, sounds about right.'  It's like I'm the last to figure this out!  (On a side note, I am going to refer to my husband for now on as "The Commissioner."  I am doing this for several reasons.  Mostly, I just hate saying "my husband."  It just sounds funny to me.  Seriously, when we are out in public meeting people and he introduces me as his "wife," I want to start laughing.  So the best I can do is "The Commissioner."  This is fitting for us as we are currently obsessed with Fantasy Football and the television show "The League."  However, I'm not going to tell him this is his title as it will go straight to his head and I'll never hear the end of it.)

So back to my decision to be a writer.  Writers are often asked when they knew they wanted to be a writer and I am always impressed when they answer from the age of [insert some ridiculously young age.]  I decided to "be" a writer at age 34 after one too many glasses of wine.  More like, after one too many glasses of wine, I admitted to The Commissioner I had always wanted to be a writer, but never had the guts to try.  His response was what got me- he was 100 percent positive it was a good decision- that I could actually be a writer.

So I did what any rational person does after making a life altering decision during happy hour, nothing. After a few days of this, I was sick of listening to the doubts in my head and I took my next step.  I told him again, in a serious discussion.  It went something like, "remember when we were talking about how I wanted to be a writer?  Well I think I'm going to go ahead and actually do it."  And his response was something like, "okay, I thought we already discussed this?"

So one new laptop (hey, my old one died- don't judge), and a million nerves later, here I am, ready to be a writer.   Of course, as I mentioned, I am all about big ideas and not so much on execution.  So I am really hoping I stick with this, that it works out, if for no other reason than it would be awesome to see something I have written- even if I am the only one who sees it.

So here are the steps I've taken:

  1. Told The Commissioner;
  2. Admitted to myself (and to The Commissioner) I was not kidding;
  3. Told E (I need to be accountable to someone else); 
  4. Bought a new MacBook Pro (I love it so much I am practically cheating on The Commissioner); 
  5. Started using twitter again to stalk... I mean talk to a bunch of my favorite YA authors, book bloggers and other industry people;
  6. Signed up for NaNo (because as a procrastinator the idea of being challenged to write for 30 days may actually force me to write for 30 days);
  7. Start this blog (because if I am going to do something- might as well document my attempt so I can look back on this later.  Hopefully, with my book in hand.); and
  8. Publish this first entry... so there is truly no turning back.