Monday, September 30, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Introduction

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon
Welcome to my read-along of No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

If you're here for I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This, well, you were warned, but no worries; it'll be back in December.

So, without further ado:

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty


Baty begins by telling the story of how NaNoWriMo came to be. Back in 1999, Baty decided, on a whim, to write a novel in a month. He had no story ideas.  He and his friends, book-lovers all, decided to hell with it: they were going to write (probably spectacularly bad) novels over the course of July, 1999. They agreed to define a novel as 50,000 words, and took off with gusto.

Then reality hit: novels written quickly suck. And sucking is bad for motivation. Some people dropped out, but those who pushed through picked up a second wind. And in the end, six people won that first NaNoWriMo.

Baty headed NaNoWriMo for years after that, only stepping down in January of 2012 to become a full-time writer, so you see? It works. Or it can. And in his years of running NaNoWriMo, he had four revelations he shares in the introduction:
  1. Enlightenment Is Overrated: waiting until you're brilliant and wise won't get your novel written.
  2. Being Busy Is Good for Your Writing: you fill the time you have, so the more time you have, the more time-wasting you'll do.  I can attest to this; I have a hard time focusing on my writing at home, for one thing.
  3. Plot Happens: have a couple good characters and push through, and plot will work itself out.
  4. Writing for Its Own Sake Has Surprising Rewards: getting into the zone is awesome, you appreciate your favorite novels more, and you get better at writing in general.
After that first year, NaNoWriMo was moved to November, and word spread. There are actual best-selling novels out there that started as NaNoWriMo projects -- Water for Elephants and The Night Circus, for example.

Baty wraps up the introduction by explaining the format of the book, and ends with his good luck wishes.

So... I just came up with a story idea, but I'm willing to be swayed.  How about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Review #31

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle (Photo credits: Best Buy)
Greetings, readers of the future! I am actually writing this on Thursday, because of reasons I will explain below, so some of the stuff I "did" this week I haven't, from my perspective, actually done yet. I'll update on those things in next week's Review.

So last Friday, Chris and I went to Philadelphia for part of the weekend.  We met up with my brother for dinner and drinks.

Saturday we took my father out to dinner for his birthday. Half of the meals served were excellent; the other half were sub-standard. After dinner, we went back to my parents' house for cake and presents. We then came back to New York to rest up for Sunday.

Sunday, we ran the 5th Avenue Mile, which I already told you about.  Then, I pretty much crashed. Yes, I know it was only a mile. We've discussed this.

Nothing much during the week until Thursday.

Thursday was our 4th wedding anniversary.

And I don't want to recap our plans and jinx them, so I'll tell you about the rest of our weekend next week.

In addition, worked on Chris's alpaca scarf, and did some reading, chipping away at Demon Princes and The Complete Father Brown Mysteries, which I have handy on my phone when there's not a book or Kindle handy; I also finished the actual narrative part of Washington: A Life, and only have the notes to read.  Yes, I read the notes.

What have you been up to?

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

O's 4-Step Guide to Discovering Who You're Meant to Be (Part IV)

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...
According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a Teacher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All right! Over the last few weeks, we've Oprah'ed up: we've examined our passions, investigated our strengths, and considered what motivates us.

So what's left to do?

Part 4: Go!

All right! That's it! We're done!

...Oh, come on.  You knew it wouldn't be that easy.

Something's probably holding you back.  So what do we do about it? Apparently, we throw an idea party! 

(No, I do not have any parties planned for the near future.  If I do and you're invited, you'll know.)
I've seen so many fantastic plans get traction at idea parties. A woman interested in fashion got instructions on how to work backstage at Fashion Week—and an introduction to a local designer. Someone who couldn't afford to quit her corporate job but dreamed of working with primates met a zoo liaison who invited her to volunteer with spider monkeys on the weekends. A woodcarver who designed harps out of rare wood was upset that her usual supplier in England had run out—until another woman at the party exclaimed that her brother had a stand of the same trees in Australia. 
 Before you throw (or, presumably, attend) an idea party, it's a good idea to get a sense of what you think your obstacles are. Me? I never did get to figure out my strengths (hint, hint, folks!), so I'm still stumped, but if you've been able to follow along, you probably have a goal for the middle of the chart, and that leads to some good obstacles for the outer sections.

To plan this party, apparently you just invite a handful of friends and encourage each of them to do the same (oh, yeah, an introvert's dream, she notes sarcastically).

Next, play an icebreaker game where everyone tells the biggest lie about themselves they can think of, and what they like about their lie.

Finally, everyone takes turns saying what their goals are, and what their obstacles are, and the other guests offer feedback for getting over those obstacles.

Now, ideally you've gotten rid of the things holding you back, so you have no choice but to do it! Yay!

And good luck.  Don't know about you, but I need it.

Have you been following this series?  Think it helped you?

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Participation trophies

Trophies for everyone!
Trophies for everyone! (Photo credit: n0mkj)
I'm at the older end of the Millennial generation.

Apparently, this means that I'm an entitled brat and participation trophies have ruined my sense of reality.

On Sunday, I ran the 5th Avenue Mile, the first race I've ever done -- and probably the last for a while, since I have yet to successfully run 5 consecutive K.

All the while, people on the sidelines were going, "Whoo! Good job! You're almost there!"

It's a 1-mile. I was "almost there" the second I crossed the starting line.

And while I wasn't actually the slowest one out there, I was pretty far down there.  Go ahead, ask anyone who runs seriously what they think of a 10:50 mile as a personal best.

And it's not that I don't appreciate support and encouragement. It's just that I haven't exactly earned praise yet.

"Hey, at least you did it! You're only competing against yourself anyway, right?"

Isn't "Hey, at least you did it!" what they print on participation trophies?

You know, the ones that apparently destroyed my generation?

Where do you think the line is?

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What makes you happy? #26

Cover of "Washington: A Life"
Cover of Washington: A Life
Fun coincidences.

On September 19, 1796, President George Washington published his farewell address to the American people as he brought his second term to a close.

On September 19, 2013, as I sat on the subway, I happened to read that particular passage in Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

It wasn't by design.  In fact, I didn't even make the connection until a little later that evening, when this exchange happened:

So, that was fun.

Any fun coincidence in your life lately?

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Meta: Two schedule changes

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon
All right, I have a couple schedule changes to announce.

The first is that the read-along of I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This is going to be on hiatus.

The second is that, while I hope to get a cushion going over the next few weeks, there's a decent chance that posting will be a little sparse in November.

These two changes are for the same reason, and I'm wondering if you can guess what it is.

Give up?

I'm doing NaNoWriMo.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writer's Month, a challenge to write a novel (or, well, a shitty first draft thereof) in a month, specifically, the month of November.  I've never won, but twice now I've ended up with seeds of projects I'm picking at to this day... and once got an idea that was badgering me down on paper so I could finally allow that not much will ever come of it.

I don't expect to win this year, either -- heck, I don't even have a story idea yet -- but that won't stop me from trying, yet again.

Which brings me to the read-along.

Starting next week, I'll be going through Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! There are week-specific chapters I'll want to hit in November, and at a pace of one a week, that means we start now.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Reach out to me here, and maybe we can friend each other on the boards.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Review #30

My reading and knitting lagged this week, so please give me a kick in the ass to work on those in the week ahead.

Saturday Chris took me to a local track where I ran outdoors for the first time.  It really hit home how much I suck at running. That night, we did Lit Crawl NYC, which was not as much fun as I'd hoped -- both the group I was with and the events we attended were pretty disorganized.

Monday we went running in the neighborhood.  That was odd for me.

Tuesday was book club, at a barbecue place, because apparently that's sort of our thing now.

Wednesday was another run in the neighborhood, which was really hard, but I shaved 10 seconds off my previous mile time.  Still really freaking slow, though.

Thursday was a Shut Up and Write session, but the coffee shop where we usually have it was closed for the holiday, so we wrote in the train station next door.  Which was fine, except I was hungry -- I had planned to grab something at the coffee ship.  It worked out, though, because one of the places we had run by on Monday and Wednesday had just unveiled their new menu, which includes $1 tacos on Thursdays.

I think that's about it.  What have you been up to?
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

O's 4-Step Guide to Discovering Who You're Meant to Be (Part III)

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...
According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a Teacher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well, I never actually got to do last week's exercise (I'm still looking for volunteers!  ...Anyone?)

But in any event, let's move on to:

Part 3: Tap Your Motivation

OK, assuming you've figured out your passion, now you have to keep on track with it.You'd think that would be easy, you being so passionate about it, but no. So we now have to figure out what type of things drive us, to make sure our passion is that type of thing.

I did, and apparently my motivation style is Security:
You need to feel financially stable and have the backing of an organization or group. You'd cringe at the thought of going out on your own as an entrepreneur, or traveling the world solo; you gain strength from structure, whether it comes from your job, family, or community. You need to know where your next meal is coming from—not to mention the money for your next mortgage check, car payment, and dog grooming bill.
That sounds decently accurate, if overly simplified.  Let's look at my overall results:
Your Motivation Style: Connection: 4
Your Motivation Style: Security: 5
Your Motivation Style: Influence: 4
Your Motivation Style: Accomplishment: 4
Your Motivation Style: Enlightenment: 3
So I'm actually pretty balanced when it comes to my motivation style.  Sounds more realistic, if less helpful.

How about you?  What did yours turn out to be? Do you agree with it?

All right, now that we have our motivation styles, we're supposed to apply them to the goals we supposedly figured out last time. Maybe we need to tweak the goals, or maybe we need to start over with our second- or third-choice passions.

Now that our goals are in place (er, once we have them. See above), we also need to make sure each step touches base with our motivations. Going with my result of Security, then:
If Security is what drives you, avoid risks and embrace structure so you can relax and enjoy what you're doing, feeling safe and worry-free. If your goal is doing yoga but the cost of classes stresses you out, offer to assist the teacher before class in exchange for free lessons. If you long to travel, start with all-inclusive packages that take care of the details for you.
Well, I don't necessarily agree with the specific examples, but I like the idea.

So, how are you applying your motivation to your goals?
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Positivity vs. Tricksters

Murphy's law in action.
Murphy's law in action. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've always been a little superstitious. Not of the broken-mirror, black-cat, Friday-the-13th type.  I mean, I believe those things can be bad luck, but only if you believe they are -- the placebo effect.

And, no, I don't believe that you wearing your lucky underpants will cause your team to win. Although I do wonder if it's a balance thing -- like voting; no, your individual vote/ritual won't make the difference, but if your candidate/team has the most overall... well, I don't know. Wearing your lucky underpants doesn't hurt anyone.

I do believe in tempting fate. Never say, "Nothing could go wrong!"  Never say, "I've prepared for every contingency." Murphy is watching and laughing.

...It's entirely possible I believe in a trickster spirit named Murphy.  That's going to require some reflection on my part.

But that's not the point!

The point is that, despite all this, I've always been kind of skeptical of the idea that if you put out positive energy, good things will manifest. (Maybe I'm convinced Murphy will eff it up.  Again, requires reflection...)

Well, the last few weeks seem to prove both positions right.

See, I have a hard time focusing on my creative writing at home. But I always feel kind of wasteful when I just go to Panera or Moe's to write.  If I just get an iced tea, I feel like I'm abusing the privilege. But I'm trying to cut back on eating out, for the sake of both my wallet and my waistline.

Add on to that, I was feeling dry when it came to story ideas.

Well, recently, Shut Up and Write started back up in my area. NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, which promises write-ins. A friend also suggested private write-ins. I came up with two idea, and cannot decide which one to go with. And then, I get an offer to take a short story workshop that I can't even fit in right now.

It doesn't rain but it pours, am I right? Even when I send out the positive energy that I'm going to get my writing done, Murphy has his laughs.

Are you superstitious? Does positive thinking work for you? Have you figured out how to ward off Murphy yet?
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