85k90 – Day 9 and Novel Journals

Today was an average writing day. I ended up with about 1000 words although a lot of that involved copy pasting from my NaNoWriMo draft. Mostly, I wrote in my Novel Journal which, as it turns out, is what the writing I’ve been doing in my Planner Pro notes is called.

According to James Scott Bell on the Writers Helping Writers blog in his article called Using the Novel Journal for Writing Breakthroughs, keeping a journal specific to the writing of a novel or lengthy work gives the writer a place to explore possibilities, dive into backstory or character/setting sketches, ask questions and express frustrations.

If I wanted to, I could do this work within my Scrivener project which I have done in the past, creating a Notes folder outside of the Manuscript folder for this purpose. For some reason, however, I’m finding it easier to focus my thoughts when I’m away from the project space. I feel free to write whatever comes into my head without trying to fit into the current logic of the piece.

I have tried something similar to this in the past, free writing by hand before each writing session as an brain exercise but, while fun, didn’t seem to help me, when it came time to working on a specific project.

Bell quotes Sue Grafton explaining her process in using novel journals which is where he first learned of the idea:

The day’s date and a bit of diary stuff, how she’s feeling and so on. This is to track outside influences on her writing.

Next is notes about any ideas that emerged overnight. I especially like this part, because the writer’s mind has been working while I sleep and I want to pour out everything I can. The trick here is not to think too much about what you write. Just let it flow.

Third, Sue writes about where she is in the book. She “talks” to herself about the scene she’s working on, or problems that have arisen.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing and it’s making a big difference both in the amount of work I’m able to accomplish and my ability to focus on where I’m heading in the story.

Choose a format that works for you and give novel journaling a try.

85k90 – Days 7 and 8

Yesterday was a wash. Dealing with continuing condo issues left little energy for writing. That’s ok because today, I more than made up for it with two good writing sessions and a copy and paste of some writing I’d done for NaNoWriMo that folded into the scenes I’m currently writing ending the day with a gain of 2,437. All is well with the world again.

I’m finding that reading for an hour before writing and mapping out my writing day (whether or not I follow my map) is helping a great deal, both in preparing the writing part of my brain and in avoiding the blanking out I get when I sit down to write without first choosing a direction for my thoughts.

Also, my daily checklist. Why haven’t I done this before?

85k90 – Day Six – The Day of Water and Ice

Today hasn’t been much of a writing day. It’s been more of a candle lighting, hot water boiling kind of day.

This weekend is the coldest on record for this area at this time of year. During the night last night, the power blew in our high rise and we switched over to emergency power. Emergency power doesn’t include heat. We spent the day trying to keep the apartment at a reasonable temperature which, it turns out, is pretty time consuming and stressful living with the knowledge that the remaining electricity could go at any moment. I stayed away from my iMac just in case.

Around dinner, the heat came back on. Hurray! Heat! Hot water! But not for long. Within about an hour, there were reports of water filling the lobby. Water rained down from the pot lights in the ceiling. The heat and hot water vanished again..

And that’s where we’re at right now. I’m using my iPad to write this post. I hope I’ll have power to upload once I’m finished. I will do a bit more writing throughout the evening. So far I’ve written 400 words which is all right considering the circumstances.

I hear it’s going to heat up this coming week. I can hardly wait.

85k90 – Day 5 with Planner Pro

It’s still early and I haven’t started on my draft for the day so this isn’t going to be an accounting of today’s writing. Instead, I thought I’d tell you a bit about my process for getting ready to write and staying on track.

I never used to have a process. I didn’t find it necessary during NaNoWriMo because the time involved was so short. I can do anything for a small about of time. It’s keeping it up over an extended period that I have difficulty with. I figured, if I was going to make this 85k90 thing work, I’d need to develop a system that had as few pain points as possible. Something simple that I didn’t hate and that I actually might like.

I love planners. The weight of them in my hand, the smell of the leather and the paper, finding just the right pen to make up a set. I also find them utterly useless for keeping track of things. I live in a digital world. I need my planner to be digital too and so I started looking for an app that gave me the same sorts of features I’d find in a planner without too much else going on so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming and become a chore.

After a few failed experiments, I landed on Planner Pro and have been very happy with it.

If you love physical planners, you’ll find the layout of Planner Pro familiar. It has both iOS and desktop versions so I bought them both. I like being able to access my planner on any device I happen to be using but, if I had to choose only one, the iPad version seems to be the best fit for the software. It feels like it belongs there. There are daily, weekly, and monthly views plus tabs for your collection of tasks and notes. While the weekly view can be quite useful, spend nearly all of my time on the daily view.

To make this app useful for 85k90, I’ve eliminated all calendars but the one I’ve set up for the project. I’ve created a list of tasks that I’d like to accomplish each day and repeat daily so that each morning I open Planner Pro, I have a fresh checklist to go through.

The first thing I take care of is One Hour of Reading. I do this with my morning coffee/breakfast and try not to rush through. I try to read novels from writers who’s work I admire and books that I see as similar to what I’m currently writing. I set a timer on my device and, when the timer goes off, I put the book away and check that item off of my list.

The next task is journaling – something I’ve found to be invaluable for thinking about what I’ve written the day before and what I’d like to write today. I write my journal entries directly into the Planner as daily notes. Once I’ve used it to figure out what I’ll be doing, I can check journal writing off of the list and and I’m ready to start in on my novel.

I use Scrivener to do my writing, sometimes on my desktop and sometimes on my iPad using the excellent mobile version. I like to change it up so I don’t feel held captive by my desk. When I reach my predetermined goal for the day’s words, I stop and check it off of the list. I might go back later and add more if I come up with an idea that I feel I need to get down right away but, for the most part, I’m trying to keep it slow and steady so that I can really ruminate on what I’ve written and where my characters are heading. This also keeps me eager to start up again the next day because I haven’t burned myself out the day before.

In the evening, (today being an exception) I will do a blog post. I’m trying to use the blog to keep me accountable to others. So far, the blog posts have been the hardest to get through and feel forced. That’s why I’ve changed it up today and decided to blog about something other than my word count which, let’s face it, just gets boring for both you and me.

Planner Pro has a subscription model but it’s not onerous like so many are – something like $5 per year Canadian. That’s peanuts for how valuable it’s been to me so far. I’m not affiliated with the company or the creator in any way and you might find other ways to mark out your days that work for you (I’d be interested to hear about them!).

How to you organize your writing life to keep you going through a long haul?

85k90 – Day 4

A busy day that involved a trek to the grocery store and a dozen broken eggs meant that I didn’t start writing until after 4pm, throwing me completely off schedule. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get going at all and the whole day would be a write off.

a dozen broken eggs
Don’t carry eggs in a backpack

But it wasn’t! After cleaning up a disastrous egg incident which left my kitchen and myself covered in raw egg, I sat down and got to work and I had such a good time writing I didn’t want to put it away when it was time for dinner.

Oh yeah. I’ve got this.

85k90 – Day 3

I’m starting to get into the swing of the story. It could be because I am entering a new scene that I’m writing to replace a scene from my previous draft. I love the exhilaration of writing something for the first time. Maybe I’ll finally get it right.

I don’t have a fear of blank pages. A blank page holds the universe. I could go in any direction and it would be the right direction. The further I go, the choices narrow until there’s only one way and it leads to nowhere.

I hate that.

I have so many lovely little notebooks that I’ve bought over the years, each with just a page or two filled in, sullied, tossed aside. Every once in a while I find one and read the first page:

December 15, 2015

I wish that I was simple so I would like simple things.

85k90 – Day 2

Reached my goal today through sleepy eyes. It’s so hard to stay awake in winter. I want to hibernate.

My favorite bit of writing today includes a husband observing his wife:

You’d never know that she was fifty. Never in a million years. Forty, tops. She’s wearing a blouse made of see through fabric that billows when the wind catches it, clings to her body, puffs out like a cloud and sucks into her again. Underneath the blouse is a lacy bra, the pink one with the matching panties. His eyes drop instinctively to her lap but she’s wearing pants. He’s glad he picked up the wine.

A Year With 85k90

2017 marked the third year I participated in NaNoWriMo which, for those who don’t know, is an international event encouraging writers to complete a 50,000 draft in just 30 days during the month of November. With many thousands of participants, it’s kind of a big deal.

I’ve managed to “win” all three years but, guess what? I still don’t have a completed manuscript. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, 50,000 words isn’t considered novel length. I found that I could accomplish little more than an outline and a few fleshed out scenes but nothing substantial. I simply needed more space.

Why didn’t I just carry on until I finished the thing, you ask? I’ve asked myself the same question every December for that past three years but the truth is, I need the structure of a program or I end up getting sucked back into day to day responsibilities and Netflix binges. I’ve given up thinking of this as a failing, something that I need to overcome. Instead, I am going to work with it and find structures that support my efforts.

I can’t afford more schooling and online workshops are too short and assignment focused to get the job done.

Enter 85k90. I can’t remember how I ran into this cryptic code but I do remember there was a link and I followed it, read the about page and immediately signed up.

The 85K Writing Challenge began as a small Facebook group, running our first 85K during the first 90 days of 2016. Our goal was simple. Write 85,000 words in 90 days – January through March.

Three whole months to write a story the size of an adult novel means no ridiculous cramming sessions, time to think about what I’m writing, research, change direction, but it’s so much more than that. 85k90 is a year long adventure, with a goal of going from first draft to published by the year’s end.

This is exactly what I need. Hold my hand, 85k90. I’m not proud.

I know, I know. Just because you wrote it, doesn’t mean the publishers will come. But, at least, now I have a structure to follow which will, hopefully, set me on a challenging, sustainable path to finishing what I started.

Yesterday was Day One of my adventure and I did little more than cut and paste the first scene from my NaNoWriMo draft into a new Scrivener document and fill out a little more detail and a bit of a flashback. But, it’s a 3,015 word beginning.

I’ve decided to blog about this experience here on bonybits and let my readers, if any, learn from my experience. Previously, I’ve been using this site as a repository for odd bits of text gleaned from years of secret notes and journal entries and, to be honest, I’ve been adrift.

Now that I have a goal and a structure, I’m sure things will pick up.

Wild Writers and Other Women

I am at a conference and I’ve come alone.

There is a brunch. Meet the authors, the write up says. An intimate gathering.

We do not share the same understanding of the word intimate.

I am sitting at a table for four except there’s only one of me. It’s a room of about one hundred people.

These other people sit in groups of four or six or a dozen. Conversations and card exchanges abound.

I attempt an expression of engagement. This goes on for some time while the wait staff gathers the chits for our meal choices. I sip sparingly out of my styrofoam coffee cup.

The waitress comes to take my ticket and places a glass of water in front of me. She places a second glass of water in front of the empty chair beside me.

“Just in case someone decides to sit next to you,” she says and I feel worse than before the glass was placed there.

There is a woman across the aisle, sitting at a table for two. She is glancing around the room through lowered eyes. I feel a pang of empathy or, perhaps, hope. I go up to her and say:

“Are you awkward and alone? Would you like to be awkward and alone with me?”

She blushes. She is grateful. We sit together at our table for two. It’s a real table for two now because there are two of us. We are together.

We start with our names, first and last.

We shake hands the way women do, offering up paws, tugging lightly on each other’s fingertips.

“Is this your first conference?” She asks.

“Yes,” I say. “It’s my first time.”

“Me too,” she says and we lean into one another and smile.

She says that it is such a relief to meet someone here, to not be alone.

I agree. It is a relief.

We share our stories and, soon, we are like old friends.

All of this is happening in my head.

In reality, another woman enters the room. She catches the eye of my lady and there is a look of recognition between them. My lady smiles. She has a broad smile, the kind they say can light up a room. And it must be true because I’m dazzled. All I can see is them.

They move toward each other. My hands sweat.

“Did you order the French Toast?” My lady asks the new one.

“Yes,” the new one responds. “You?”

“Yes,” my lady says, “me too!” And the new lady laughs like music and sits down at the table for two which is now a real table for two because there are two of them. I am still sitting at the table for four which is really a table for one (and a half, if you count the second glass of water).

I take a sip of my coffee. It is lukewarm.

Icarus of the Condos

Things slow down.

His body slows as it falls, speeds up
when it hits the ground.

Thump.

and a puff of white from the dirt below,
a punch in the gut from above.

Dead stop.

Birds freeze mid-flight.
Dogs catch their barks in their throats.

Rain falls from the sky.
The boy who falls has fallen.

Bare feet.

White soles like searchlights
My eyes like moths.

His mouth in the shape
Of an “O”.

Inkblot.

A newborn on his belly.
A liquid halo.
An octopus reaching for the sea.