Monday, October 27, 2014

NaNoWriMo: This is What it is to Me!

During NaNoWriMo, I’m supposed to write at least 1,670 words per day if I expect to reach my goal of 50,000 words during the month of November.Last year I made it just. I failed Camp in April and June this year. I must write this story I have in my mind to write.

NaNoWriMo: YES!

The 1st of November is fast approaching which means the start of National Novel Writing Month (more often known as NaNoWriMo). What better way to celebrate the beginning of the winter months than by locking yourself away and writing a novel? It may seem scary and time-consuming, or an insurmountable challenge, but I think that if you are interested in writing then NaNoWriMo may just be the best way to go about it.

 So why write during NaNoWriMo? 

Firstly there is that word count. 50,000 words is  1,667 words a day. That is absolutely achievable, and it gives a defined benchmark to meet everyday. Luckily, you do not have to achieve 1,667 every day, if there are days where writing is not an option, you can write extra on other days and it will all balance out.

You don’t even have to count the words up yourself, you can submit to the NaNo website and it will keep all your information there. There is also a progress tracker which will show you how close you are to your goal which is always useful for inspiration and encouragement. Sorted!
As part of signing up, you are sent pep talks and words of encouragement. These are from writers and people who have completed NaNoWriMo, and as a first time participant in 2012, I found them really helpful. You see examples of people who completed projects and achieved the magic of getting published. Building resilience, these talks show that if they can do it, you can do it too.

Another aspect of NaNoWriMo that I really enjoyed, and think you might too, was the social aspect. While you can be left to your own devices, for those of us who like having that extra bit of social support, there is help. Through the website there are facilities for chatting and meeting people who are attempting to complete the challenge also. You can add friends and keep track of their successes and progress. If your friends are editing this year and not writing, there are forums for online socialising and a hashtag on Twitter, where people encourage, look for support and share ideas and tips. If you prefer going outside and meeting people face-to-face there is also a facility to search for groups meeting in your local area. Go along for writing sessions, coffee and to make new writing friends.

I think this is one of the aspects of NaNoWriMo that sets it apart. There is very much a community feeling, the idea that we are all in this together. I am currently editing a project and it is no way near as fun as the initial 30 days of writing, reading and talking about writing and reading with people writing and reading in the same situation.

If you are the competitive type, NaNoWriMo has provided for you too. There is a competitive streak running through the month which I think is great fun. You can win badges for reaching certain milestones or achieving fulfilling certain tasks. You can get a running counter for your blog, showing your progress to the world. There is also a chart showing how many words particular regions have written, so you can fly the flag for your home country and get working!

Once you have competed 50,000 words (or more!) in the month you are now a NaNoWriMo winner. Congratulations! Now it is time for some swag and there is much to choose from. There are posters, t-shirts, coffee mugs and much more that you can purchase to remember your victory, or your participation (anyone can purchase these and they are lovely). There are also companies who offer discounts on their products for Winners including Scrivener which gives 50% off! Really good stuff.
I hope the above has inspired you to take part this year. There are still a couple of days left for preparation, or just plough on in on 1st November. Christopher Hitchens said “everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Can’t say I agree, instead get that novel going in November.

Poem - Guardian Angel

All you wanted for me was rest and contentment
and though lately I've been tossing, sweating,
wrestling demons between stale sheets,
I'll try to find consolation.
Like in how we revere the same Roman Catholic
church our families raised us in,
dirt roads, the same stained glass windows,
the same Stations of the Cross, the same
sanctuary, the same shadows of jubilant angels
dressed in pale yellow with golden hair,
hands folded toward the Prince of Peace.

I find myself chanting your name
in obscure places, under staircases,
under muddy skylines, under
the oppression of my thoughts
and though I feel shaken with separation,
I will stop doubting that you are here.

That you are like my guardian angel.


X is a funny letter
It’s legs are long and straight
For more than that, I am afraid,
You will just have to wait.

What is the Price of Creativity?

The world is a place where everything is bargained. You want to have a car? You must have the enough amount of money to buy it. You want to run a mile? You should have enough energy to do it. And that’s why I sometimes think, what is the price of creativity?

I’ve spent most of my adult life pondering about things and trying to look at them in different perspectives. When most people see a cat, I want that cat to be some sort of an inspirational gold mine. I want it to teach me something deep about life and the universe. I want to make a story out of it or, if it’s impossible to extract a story worth telling, maybe a poem or some artistic output right then and there.

This often leads me to becoming over-creative. Often I want to be clever and different. I want to break and challenge the status quo. And sometimes, this brings bad things to me.
For example, just a few months ago, I accepted a challenge to participate in a short story writing competition. I was confident because I had so much stories in my head and I wanted others to read them.

At first, I thought this is good. I have a lot of stories to tell. My creative mind is working perfectly as it  should be. 
So, I let a few weeks pass trying to make the story “ripe” enough to be written. And that takes me to today. It’s less than a week before the deadline, and I’m cramming into what could be a half-baked story.

I asked myself what happened in the past months? What was the problem?

And I got the answer that I never expected. Yes, I have a lot of stories in mind to tell. But the problem is, I have a lot of stories to tell.

I packed myself too much in thinking of notable stories to a point that I can no longer choose which story will I  write about. It’s like I was in a buffet where all of my favorite dishes were served. I wasted time trying to decide what I really wanted so I just took everything and got sated.

Maybe, that’s one of creativity’s prices. You are forever burdened with the responsibility to to come up with stories worth telling to a point where  your shoulders can no longer bear the brunt of pressure to tell every story.

Perhaps, it’s the pressure that people unknowingly put on you. It’s the constant gazes at you, expecting you to blurt out some inspirational phrase, or say something deep, emotional or life changing.
Ultimately, maybe it’s the pressure you tend to put on yourself. Maybe it’s the unceasing wanting to prove that you are creative and worthy of recognition. That you can, and will be, clever and different; or that you will be able to change the system.

However, as blunt as it may seems, the pressure you experience isn’t really worthy anything.
You are not tasked by the world to tell everything. Maybe it just asks you tell a single story. People don’t look at you  while waiting for something inspirational or life changing. In fact, most of them don’t care about you at all. And maybe you are not bound to eradicate or change the system. Maybe you need to create a system of your own.

If I had learned anything about my disappointing writer’s block, it is this: that you can’t always deep meaning in everything. Sometimes things happen because they just do. Not because they are pulled in a way that can change your life. Sometimes, the universe wants you to see the blue skies not to make you fell sad, or calm or anything, but because the sky is simply blue.

Just like when you buy a car, or run a mile, you don’t mope over the prices you paid. You don’t brood for the dollars you spent or the energy you exerted. What you do is use the car, or finish the run.
The same is true with creativity, you shouldn’t focus on the price you paid. You focus on the benefit you gained.

Does Bad Grammar Mean Bad Writing?

Bad grammar is probably the second worst nightmare writers dread. (Of course, nothing scares the hell out of writers than writer’s block) But does having an impeccable grammar directly translate to good writing?

I have been writing for over six years now and honestly, I still feel embarrassed whenever I see my work with grammatical errors. Name the smallest rule in grammar, I might have broken it once in my life. Over the years I have broken rules on subject and verb agreement, parallelism, the usage of passive voice and more.

And up until today, I can say that I’m not 100 per cent error free.

Whenever this happens, there is some sort of humiliation in my part. It may be normal for all writers who have publicly committed mistakes. Hey, we’re still human beings. It’s not like we’re born with impeccable grammar. However, because people think that we, as writers, have mastery of the language, we should use it with perfection and it’s totally understandable.

But does bad grammar really mean writing?

Let me tell you this upfront. The answer is no. Bad grammar doesn’t directly translate to bad writing. Having an impeccable grammar doesn’t also imply great writing. For me, there are a lot of factors that contribute to the greatness of a writer, and having a perfect grasp of the language falls at the bottom of the list.
To me, here are the important components that make a great writer:

An Open Heart for a Good Story

Do you think J.K. Rowling became famous for using highfalutin words? Or did John Green rise into fame because he speaks and writes in fluent English?

If you think the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re on the wrong track, buddy.

What made J.K. Rowling, John Green, and Harper Lee famous is not how well their subjects agree with their verbs. The secret behind the fame of these writers is the story they were able to tell us. These writers wrote, in the simplest way possible, great stories that we will also let our kids and grandkids know.
If you want to write, you should have something to write. To be a storyteller is to have some story to tell.
If you want to start your writing career, start with opening your heart and mind to good stories. By this, I don’t mean that you should think of the story that should change literature. No. That’s a far-fetched idea. What I want you to do is to let the stories come to you.
  • Be imaginative and look at each individual as a story waiting to be told.
  • Be observant. Look beyond the skin.
  • Create your own world, live in it as if it exists in reality.
Aside from having a solid story to write on, you should always remember that the characters you create should always be as real as possible. Creating characters that readers identify to breath, move, feel and exist as they do will make your story more solid. Make them more human, more flawed.
Remember that the best characters are the ones closest to life. If you create highly-intelligent, good-looking and gay-ish vampires, I suggest you change your perspective.

A Unique Way of Telling Your Story

This is also one of the foundations of writing. Having a one-of-a-kind way to tell what you see, hear, smell, taste or feel your story makes you a better writer. This is where writing style comes in. As a writer, you should develop your own way of letting your readers understand whatever you are telling them.

Writing style generally is how you use words to form sweet music. It’s a writer’s way of arranging the notes placing them within the musical staff and producing something remarkable.
Ask yourself, how would you tell your story?
  • Would I tell it like I’m telling a story to kids?
  • Will I be witty? Or serious?
  • Is the way I tell stories hint darkness? Or shall I tell the story lightly?
These are just the few questions that you may ask yourself in order to determine how will you tell the story.

I’m just blabbering words, but to tell you frankly, this stage in your writing career is not easy. Choosing a style is like choosing your attitude. You pick one and it stays with you for a while. The most difficult thing is, people will identify you with the choice you made. So pick carefully.

Case in point: It took me around two years to finally fit into the writing style I am using now. Back then, I had this very serious approach in writing (probably because I read a lot of encyclopedias when I was young). That changed when I started to read novels again. Slowly, the totality of the writers I read became me.

How would I develop my own writing style?
  • Read
  • Read
  • Read a little more
  • and more
  • While reading, try to write. You can start by writing on a journal. Notice how your writing style changes as time passes.
And this is where good grammar comes in. Of all the three priorities I have in writing, grammar comes in last.

Why Grammar Might be Hindering You to Be a Better Writer


I can’t be a writer because my grammar is terrible.

Most of the people I encourage to start taking writing seriously give me this excuse. Terrible grammar is often the greatest hindrance to falling in love with writing. Somehow, these young minds feel inhibited by their fear of being wrong. I understand their reasons, however, I don’t necessarily tolerate it.
Sometimes, worrying about grammar stops you from becoming a better writer in a manner that you become scared to take your pen and start scribbling words. Often, this inhibition kills those brilliant ideas waiting to be forged in ink and paper.
My advice: write whatever you want to write. William Forrester is right, the first step to writing is to write. Not to think. You should write the idea as soon as you could. Look at the words you created, imagine and write. Sometimes, thinking too much prevents you from writing  good stories.
Come out of the shell. Start writing now. Who knows, the next J.K. Rowling might be you!

Don’t be misled. Good Grammar is Important Too.

You might be under the impression that grammar is not important at all. No, I don’t say that. What I’m trying to explain is that bad grammar does not mean bad writing. But having bad grammar doesn’t make you a good writer as well. My suggestion: write and then revise.