NaNoWriMo 2016: Week Three Recap

Week three was the winning point for me!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Week Three Recap

Word count

16. 2,053
17. 466
18. 874
19. 2,345
20. 2,186
21. 37
Week Three Total: 7,961
Overall Total: 52,231

I reached 50,000 words on November 19th! I was so proud of myself.

I had planned on reaching it on the 18th, but I didn’t continue my 2,000 words a day streak. That weekend was pretty busy and I was tired, but whatever. I did it and that’s all there is to it.

I want to continue writing each day though, even if it’s just a little bit… So don’t make fun of yesterday’s word count. Of course, it would be nice if I could write at least 100 words a day.

Short stories

I have six more short stories to write for Short Story Sunday next year. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll finish them by the end of the month, I hope to get most of them done.

Week three

For the final stretch of NaNo, I hope to finish all 52 stories and keep updating my word count every single day, even if it’s just a little bit.

How is NaNoWriMo treating you? Have you crossed the finish line yet? Let me know in the comments! 

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NaNoWriMo 2016: Week Two Recap

So, the second week of NaNo is over. That was a thing and it happened.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Week Two Recap

Word count

8. 2,402
9. 2,026
10. 10,095
11. 2,066
12. 4,584
13. 2,097
14. 2,110
15. 2,120
Week Two Total: 27,500
Overall Total: 44,268 (19,268 words ahead of schedule)

I kept up my streak of writing 2,000 words a day. Week two is usually the toughest because of the “slump,” but I was lucky and actually had three days off from work. I was able to get in a little extra writing done on each day.

On the 10th, I had the house to myself and no work so I challenged myself to write 10k that day. And I met my goal! That extra boost of words have helped because I’ll reach 50k a lot sooner than I originally thought.

Short stories

 

I have 14 short stories left to write, which mean I’ve written 38. When I first started this I thought each story would be about 1,000 words so I would end up writing 52,000 words during the month. A handful of stories turned out to be about 2,000 words long while others were about 500 words.

This isn’t a big deal, but if I stuck with my 1,000-word rule, I’d have about 8 stories left to write as opposed to 14. In other words, my Short Story Sundays for next year will be well over 52,000 words. I wonder how much of it I’ll get done by the end of the month?

 

The process

 

I think I’m starting to slow down a bit… Especially after that 10k day I think my mind is screaming at me. But I’ve been staying strong! Writing has continued to go pretty smoothly.

Week three

I would like to finish all 52 stories by the end of the month if I can. However, keeping up the 2k a day, I’ll reach 50,000 words on this Friday, the 18th. I still want to write a little bit every day for the rest of the month, but I’m not going to force myself to write 2,000 words every day if I don’t have the time or just don’t feel like it.

I want to keep the routine and hopefully finish the 52 stories, but it won’t be as big of a priority. I’m usually pretty good at balancing NaNo and life, but this month has been so crazy compared to past Novembers. I’ve had a lot of family events happen so balancing that with NaNo and then everything else. (Like blogging… I’ve neglected all my fellow bloggers and totally ignored everyone’s posts this month… sorry, guys!)

How is NaNoWriMo treating you? Are you enjoying your writing project so far? Let me know in the comments! 

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Why I’m Writing Short Stories for NaNoWriMo

I’m sure most of you know by now that I’m writing short stories for NaNoWriMo this year.

I tend to write whatever I want during the Camp months because they’re more flexible, but I like to stick to the “rules” of writing 50,000 words of a brand new novel in November.

I tried to write short stories last year for November and it didn’t go over that well. I can’t remember if I won or not, but I don’t think I did. It was hard and I said, “Well, I tried something different. Next year I’ll stick to my novels.”

So why did I change my mind?

It’s not that I changed my mind, I just had completely forgotten I told myself to stick to novels during November until just the other day.

I decided to write short stories this year for a number of reasons…

1. Short stories are “easier”

Short stories are not easy to write, but I think writing a novel is harder. Some people may agree or disagree with me and that’s fine. But short stories are smaller in the word count and there’s not as much planning as a novel. Sure, it’s difficult to wrap up a conflict in a short amount of pages, but overall I think it’s “easier” than writing a novel.

2. To get ahead for 2017

I’ve been trying to plan ahead for my blogs for 2017. There’s a lot that I want to do and the only way I’m going to get it all done is if I can get some things done right now. If I don’t have to worry about taking the time to sit and write a few thousand words every so often, that would be a huge weight off my shoulders. Any writing time can be spent working on my novels next year.

3. New novel ideas

The short stories I’ve written so far (I have January through May completely done and the other months are half done) vary in genre. I’ve written mystery, mainstream, memoir, poetry, and fantasy. I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the different genres. It’s great practice and the best part is I think I’ll be turning some of those short stories into novels someday. One story in particular (I think it’s a July short) I already have mostly planned out for a novel.

4. To submit to contests and magazines

I’ve been getting serious with submitting my work lately. I’ve submitted to magazines and a few contests at least once a month since August. I currently have two short stories out in the world that I’m waiting to hear back. I hope to keep that trend up and hope that something comes from it. I’ve written a few shorts so far that I think will be worthy of magazines some day in the near future.

Here’s a reason as to why I love writing short stories for NaNo: I don’t get burned out as easily.

Last Thursday I attempted to write 10,000 words and I ended up with 10,095 (I was pretty tired afterwards). I don’t remember how many shorts I wrote (most are about 1,000 words, but some are as long as 2,000 and as short as 500), but after every break I went back to writing something completely brand new.

There was no thinking, “Where do I go from here?” or, “What should my characters do next?” I just grabbed a prompt and went with it.

My word count is currently at 40,000 words. I have 10,000 more to go. I wanted to finish by Thanksgiving, but if I keep my 2,000 words a day trend up, I’ll reach 50,000 words on Friday the 18th.

And let me tell you, it’s been a wonderful thing.

Have you ever tried to write something else other than a novel during NaNo? How did it go? How is NaNo going for you this year? Let me know in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2016: Week One Recap

A week has already come and gone for NaNoWriMo. Can you believe it?

I can’t.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Week One Recap

Word count

1. 2,309
2. 2,073
3. 2,067
4. 2,198
5. 4,035
6. 2,031
7. 2,055
Total: 16,768 (5,101 words ahead of schedule)

My daily goal is to write at least 2,000 words. I’ve been pretty consistent sticking to that. Day 5 was Saturday and Double-Up Day. I double my daily goal and reached 4,000 words within three hours. It was a very productive day!

Short stories

I didn’t keep track of how many stories I wrote each day, but I’ve written a total of 14 short stories out of 52.

I’ve been aiming for each story to be about 1,000 words long. Most of them are, but there are three or four stories that are 2,000 words long. There’s also two or three that are less than 1,000 words. One is actually a poem instead of a short story that one reached just shy of 200 words.

I figured out all my prompts before NaNo started so I’ve been jumping around and writing these stories out of order. I have Short Story Sunday written for all of January and February. March is almost done and then I have a story or two for some of the other months.

The process

Writing has been going smoothly. Like I said, I have all the prompts assigned to a date. I’ve been jumping around and writing the prompts that I feel like writing first instead of going in order of the dates. I think that’s been helping me keep up the momentum of writing every day.

A couple of the short stories I absolutely love and I think they may even be novel ideas someday.

Week two

This first week went so well. I have a few days off of work in week two, so I think I’ll be able to write more this week than I did last week, even though week two is considered “the slump” week.

How is NaNoWriMo treating you? Are you enjoying your writing project so far? Let me know in the comments! 

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A Day Off is a Day of Writing

Remember when I said that Kris and I were going to work on one manuscript each for at least an hour every day for a month? Well, that obviously didn’t happen. September ended up being much more hectic than we thought it would be.

However, October is usually a calm month and nothing really happens until the end (three birthdays and Halloween). So, we decided to work an hour a day during the month of October instead.

We’re ten days into the month and so far it’s been going pretty well. We’re both still pretty busy with work and trying to have a social life on top of writing and blogging, but we’re doing it. We’ve found a good rhythm.

Why am I especially excited to get some work done today? Because I have the day off from work! And because the kids I babysit have the day off from school (and their mother works in a school system so she has it off as well) I don’t even have to babysit.

Yep. Today will be a pajama day (after I head out and get a large hot coffee).

Then it’s writing time.

Kris has had her new job for a while now, but she gets holidays off now too. So, we decided that we’re going to spend the day sifting through all our writing ideas.

This is something that has needed to be done for a while, but when we had the time, it was always just easier to keep writing. No planning involved.

Yet, Kris has a whole universe to figure out for her fantasy series and I have a huge timeline to figure out for my mystery series. Not to mention a lot of research and outlining for both my mystery series and my fairy tale retelling.

A couple of weeks ago we were at our local bookstore having a writing session. While I was writing the beginning of a new mystery thing with George and Lilah (I say “thing” because it was going to be a short story, but I think it’s actually turning into the beginning of another novel) Kris was trying to sort out her thoughts about her own series.

That’s when we decided that October 10th would be the day we would flush everything out (with occasional video game breaks, of course).

So today I’ll be working on multiple things:

1. Flushing out my mystery series: Creating the timeline and then putting all the books in order.
2. Figure out what I need to do for The Lost Girl such as research and other outlining and editing bits.
3. If I have time or need a break from the bigger projects, start brainstorming prompts for Short Story Sunday 2017 for NaNoWriMo.

It’s going to be a busy day, but I plan on Tweeting updates throughout the day. Here’s hoping I get a lot of work done! …And Kris and I don’t get too distracted by video games.

Have you ever had a day to just write and plan all day? How do you usually fit in your writing times around work? Let me know in the comments! 

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On Writing Short Stories

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Hugo. Thanks, Hugo!

So, you want to write short stories?

You’re in luck.

There’s been a focus on general writing and editing so far by my fellow guest bloggers, and it’s all valuable information. Read through the posts, you’re bound to learn something. So for my piece, I’d like to narrow the focus a little bit and talk about writing short stories.

Let’s start with the Wikipedia definition of a short story:
“A short story is a piece of prose fiction, which can be read in a single sitting. … At its most prototypical the short story features a small cast of named characters and focuses on a self-contained incident with the intent of evoking a “single effect” or mood. In doing so, short stories make use of plot, resonance, and other dynamic components to a far greater degree than is typical of an anecdote, yet to a far lesser degree than a novel. While the short story is largely distinct from the novel, authors of both generally draw from a common pool of literary techniques.”

As far as length: “Other definitions place the maximum word count of the short story at anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000. In contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of fiction no shorter than 1,000 and no longer than 20,000 words. Stories of fewer than 1,000 words are sometimes referred to as “short short stories” or “flash fiction.”

Thanks, Wikipedia!

So, why short stories?

Well, why the heck not?

I’ll give you a little bit of my background so you can see where I’m coming from. Like many contemporary writers, I cut my writing teeth through Fanfiction.net and it became my life-long dream to one day write and publish my own novels in the fantasy genre.

So, fast-forward over a decade later. I’ve graduated college, working a job where I have to wear pants, and on the tail end of my MFA program. I’m also nowhere near close to sniffing a finished novel. And so, I discovered short stories.

READING SHORT STORIES

Writing and reading short stories became the perfect addition to an erratic schedule that included grad school, a full-time job, and freelancing as a journalist. Why? Each of them was a tiny itty-bitty book that I could devour in a single lunch break or read before bed/work without the frustrating “Damn it! It was getting so good!” Not that they weren’t good, quite the opposite, they were great, but they were great in a short span of time. Some people prefer to watch TV over movies for that reason because it conforms better to hectic schedules. Some of you are just as busy, if not much more busy than I am, and this is why I recommend you pick up a few short story collections.

Another thing about reading short stories is that they can have just as much of an emotional impact on you as a novel can. Stories like Benjamin Alire Saenz’s “He Has Gone to be the Dragon” or Neil Gaiman’s “Nicholas Was” are so profound even in their brevity (Nicholas came in at 100 words).

My recommendations: Saenz’s “Everything begins and ends at the Kentucky Club”, Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions; Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek; Oscar Casares, Brownsville Stories.

WRITING SHORT STORIES

There are many authors out there who won’t write short stories because they feel so limited. I never really understood that mentality. Heck, part of the reason I suspended work on my novel was because it started getting so open-ended with dozens of plotlines and I couldn’t keep track of every single one. With short stories, the only real “constraint” is the word length and even that isn’t so much a constraint as it is a way to flex your writing muscles.

So, how do you start writing a short story?

That one is entirely up to you.

One technique I’ve found to be successful is taking a writing prompt and asking yourself a: “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if—?” or “Heh, imagine if—“ and then riffing off of that to whatever it is you want to write about. The best part of it is, if you really, really like a character and want to continue writing about them, you can!

There’s also the planning aspect of it. With novels, it is highly recommended you have an outline. That’s why tools like Scrivener and Novlr are indispensable for writers. For short stories, your outlines (if you have ‘em) are nowhere near as extensive.

On the piece I’m currently revising, my outline was essentially the following words scrawled out on my journal: “taco truck” “law school” “finals”. In comparison, the outline for my novel project was 12 pages.

The thing about novels is that if you don’t plan, you’re not going to get much done. That’s why tools like Scrivener and Novlr are lifesavers for any writer. But with short stories, you take away from the amount of time you’re spending planning and you’re adding it to the amount of time spent writing.

Writing short stories is also a good way to increase your visibility. Because you’re able to send out many submissions to different journals and magazines, whereas compared to writing novels, you’re going to need an agent before someone e to test your fiction on a larger audience, and to see what you like, to experiment, to explore.

For me, I think if there was going to be a best part about writing short fiction is that it flows naturally from my background as a journalist and as a poet. I want to tell many stories, not just one. One day, I will finish my novel, but until then, I’m comfortable writing just short stories.

Maybe you can get to be like that, too! If you’re ever interested in bouncing off some ideas, please let me know.

Hugo Esteban Rodriguez Castañeda was born and raised in Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Brownsville and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. His poetry has appeared in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, HEArt Journal Online, and the Latino Rebels: Bolder Anthology; and his fiction is forthcoming in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. He lives in Houston, Texas, with his girlfriend and two neurotic fur-children. You can follow his writing shenanigans at www.dosaguilas.org and on Instagram @DosAguilas.

New Project

You Know, I Really Suck….

 

This is part of my problem. My problem being that I can never finish a writing project. Part of the reason as to why that is is because I get too distracted easily. I work on one idea, then think of something else, switch, and never get back to the old project. If you’re wondering what the other reasons are as to why I have this issue, I don’t know, yet. I’ll get back to you when I come up with some excuses.

While I was in school yesterday, not paying any attention to my health professor…or whatever class it was…I came up with a whole new writing project. I want to get published, sooner rather than later. However, a big wall is blocking me on account I don’t have the attention span to finish a novel and if I do finish it, I don’t edit it. So I came to an easy conclusion in the mean time.

To get my foot in my door along with a little experience, I decided that I am going to self-publish. But instead of self-publishing a novel, I’m going to do a book of short stories. I already have a couple whipped up…well, I have one at least. I’m pretty sure that I have another one. Unless that was an idea…that I never followed through with. Okay, before I go any further writing this post, please keep in mind that I had a long day of school and work and it is currently past 9pm. I am tired.

Continuing…I thought that I would create a bunch of short stories, throw them all together in a book, and self-publish it. Not only would it be easier to write, but it would be easier to edit. I wouldn’t have to worry too much about character development or plot thickers (“plot thickers…” I just made that up :D).

Now some of you might be thinking, “Wow, this kid’s really half-assing this whole writing thing.” I assure you that I am not. The reason I am doing this is as follows:

  1. Get my foot in the door – I can be recognized. People who actually buy the book will know who I am and can look me up. And hopefully they will check back to see if I’m coming out with anything new soon.
  2. Experience – I know absolutely nothing. About anything. If I self-publish, I will have that much more knowledge in what to do. I can self-publish other books and when I send manuscripts to publishing companies, they can see I already have stuff out and that would give me brownie points.
  3. I want to – I’ve been dying to get published for a long time and this just might be the key. Maybe this will be my final push to actually finish a novel. And in the meantime while I’m finishing those other novels, I can make a little extra income. My bank account is suffering because of school…but that’s another story for another day.

Those are the big reasons as to why I’m going to do this. I don’t know when this is going to happen because I still have to do a little research and actually write these short stories, but I’ll get to work on that as soon as possible. Also, I will still be writing A Job to Get Done in the meantime. I am not going to stop writing that as I work on these short stories. I don’t want to stop writing that story for another couple months and forget about it like I did over the summer.

I know of two self-publishing companies that seem popular: CreateSpace from Amazon and PubIt! from Barnes & Noble. I’ve heard more of CreateSpace, though. I am a part of NaNoWriMo and I know that’s what they use. So I’m going to do a lot of research on that. Once I figure out which self-publishing company to go with, I have to figure out everything else…and I mean everything else.

If anyone has any thoughts or comments on what I’m planning on doing, such as info on any of these self-publishing companies or tips, please shoot me an e-mail (rachelxspilledxink [at] yahoo [dot] com) or put it in the comments of this post. Any info/help I can get will be much appreciated. Wish me luck! 🙂

Why Blank Pages Stay Blank

This is a short story that I had to write for my English class a few semesters ago. This short story is 100% true. I love to write and I wanted to show my professor that because she knew that I have been planning on getting published soon…hopefully. So I went nuts trying to figure out what to write. In the end, I decided to write about my experiences of trying to figure out what to write. In other words, I wrote about everything I did before I started the actual assignment. So, here it is and I hope you enjoy.

Why Blank Pages Stay Blank

 

            There is a scent of freshly brewed coffee in the air. I can hear the scolding hot liquid pouring out of the machine and into the cup. I can see the steam from the cup rising high up into the air only to vanish within seconds. My head still, I follow the steam with my eyes as it keeps going up and up and then gone. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the light dimming. It’s my computer screen going on the screen saver. I tap the mouse and the computer comes back to life with a blank Word document staring back at me. I stare back for a moment, but the coffee maker begins to spit as it tries to squeeze the last of the coffee grounds out. Finally it stops and the room is silent.

I stand up from my chair, causing it to make a high-pitched squeak. I pick up my green, oval-shaped coffee mug—my favorite mug. I hold it with both hands wrapped around its body smiling at the warmth it surges through my fingers. Dipping my nose towards the mug, I take a deep breath and let it all out in a sigh. I love the smell of coffee. I slightly blow on the surface of the coffee to cool it a little before I take a sip.

Staggering back over to my noisy chair, I place the coffee on the edge of my desk and take a seat. I run my fingers over the black, thin keys of my laptop. I look at the screen and stare at the blank page staring back at me. It says nothing to me so I say nothing to it. I look back to my coffee, which is still steaming. It amuses me, watching the steam. The screen goes dark. I tap the mouse a second time and I swear—blank or not—it was glaring at me. I frown, knowing that it wants to be fed with words. It needs to be fed.

I stare at the keys as though they will start to type on their own. “Well, what are you waiting for?” I say to the keys irritably. I don’t get a response, which is typical. I tap my fingers on the keys without actually pressing down hard on them. I bob my head up and down. I love the sound the keys make when they are hard at work. If only I could make them work for real. Then I could listen to that beautiful sound. It’s almost like music to me. That makes me wonder…what’s on the radio?

Getting out of my seat once more, I walk over to the radio sitting upon the counter next to the coffee maker. I push the button to turn it on and I hear one of my favorite songs. I smile and bob my head more than I did when I was playing with the keyboard. I notice the screen goes dark. I rush back to my computer and tap the mouse once more. My laptop wakes up right away and continues to wait patiently for me to get to work. I sit down and position my fingers on the keys. I prepare myself physically and mentally before I begin to write. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I smell coffee. I forgot about that. I take a big gulp of my preferred drink and turn my attention back to the blank page in front of me. Before I can type just one letter, I notice a small icon blinking at the bottom of the screen.

I have new e-mail. I love receiving e-mails. It makes me feel important. I click the e-mail icon and look at what I have in my inbox. Spam…spam…spam…oh, look—a coupon to my favorite store. I certainly want to use this coupon, but when does it expire? I look up the deadline and then I remember. I have a deadline. I exit out of my e-mail and get back to the blank page that has been pouting for about an hour now. Taking one more sip of my coffee for courage, I begin to type on my tolerant laptop.

I smile at the screen proud that I have written my name. This makes me feel a little productive. I began to start something. But then I begin to get a little hungry. I get back up and enter the kitchen. I rummage through the refrigerator and all the cabinets, yet I can’t seem to settle on anything that I want. I notice the computer screen goes dark once more. I walk calmly back over to my laptop, tap the mouse, and glare at the screen. I know that it goes dark only to get my attention. It wants to annoy me. It’s taunting me.

I stare at my name and the blinking cursor. I pout, knowing that I should have had a lot more work done by now. I sit down and position my fingers once more. I look over to my coffee and take a deep breath. The room is still scented with coffee. I look over to the radio. The music is still playing. I look back to the screen. The Word document is still up. The cursor is still blinking. The page is still blank.

I enter twice and tell myself that there will be no more distractions. I have my coffee. I have music playing. My e-mail has already been checked. I click the underline button for the title and then I pause. What is my title? What am I even writing about? My shoulders go limp as I realize that I was farther behind than I thought. I rapidly tap my fingers on the keyboard lightly in anticipation. I close my eyes waiting for my brain to think of something.

Giving up all too quickly, I put three question marks in the spot where the title should be. I enter twice more and indent once. Then I am back at square one. I hold my head in my hands as my elbows rest upon the desk. I shake my head. I have no title, I have no story, and I have no muse.

The screen goes dark. I slowly lift my head, glaring at my computer, and move the mouse slightly. The blank page looks sad now. It has no words, it has no ideas, and it just has nothing. I glance at the question marks and then I stare at the cursor as it blinks. Even though there isn’t anything there and there isn’t anything to do, the cursor is still at work blinking away. It’s as though the cursor can’t seem to stop blinking. It needs to work. It has to work. It loves to work. It will stop at nothing. The more I stare at the blinking cursor, the more I start to think about this writing project. And then it finally hits me!

I will write about a personal experience. I will write about the truth. I will write about something that most writers have trouble with. I back space a few times and delete the three question marks. I type in, “Why Blank Pages Stay Blank.” And then—after so long—I begin to write.