Monthly Archives: November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 30 – The Lessons of NaNoWriMo

Aimee and I are not going to win NaNoWriMo2011. We have not written 50,000 words during November. I have actually only written 6,827 words this month. Aimee clocked in a bit higher, somewhere between 8 and 10k. But I’ll tell you something important: I value every single one of my 6,827 words for the treasure that they are.

This is why. Each year, NaNoWriMo teaches me different lessons. Here are this year’s lessons:

Emilie

2011 Lesson #1: Aimee and I are phenomenal collaborators. We think and write differently, we have different values and fascinations. But time and time again during this month, we would have a chat to work out the kinks in our story and we were both thinking the same thing or similar things. Many times, it was as if we each approached the problem from different angles, but arrived at the same place. So even though we didn’t write 100,000 words collectively on our story, it isn’t a failure and neither is NaNoWriMo 2011. Our story works and it’s nonperishable. It is something we can (and will) work on together in the future.

2011 Lesson #2: You can’t plan for passion. You can only succumb to it. As the first week of NaNoWriMo segued into the second week and we were already behind on our word counts (but strangely not despairing over it), I was gripped by another idea entirely. A memoir in dance. A book of essays about my experiences with dance. I couldn’t shake this idea. It had its teeth in me. I didn’t (and don’t) hate my story with Aimee. I lost some momentum for writing it RIGHT NOW (frankly, the momentum was never there this month, just a recognition that it was a good idea and remembering the joy of writing with Aimee). It turned out that it wasn’t time for Aimee’s and my story, not just yet. Meanwhile, I was going to dance classes and running home to take notes, euphoric with the high of both dancing and writing about dancing. And when I confessed this to Aimee, it turned out that we were, once again, both eerily on the same page.

Aimee

Sitting in bed, cocooned in blankets, sipping hot cocoa, watching an episode of Psych. Moping. That should be me tonight. These fingers did not type out 50,000 words. Or 25,000. Heck, not even 10,000. This had to be my worst word count to date. Complete fail. I should feel that way, shouldn’t I? Except I don’t. Not this time.  NaNoWriMo – and life in general – has been reminding me that sometimes I don’t make it. Sometimes things don’t go my way. I fail. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m still writing. The story I was so ready to tell – it’s still there. It was amazing to work with my sister again, but this month didn’t go the way I thought it would. So here’s my NaNoWriMo wisdom for this year: Sometimes you just have to go with what moves you. My sister had another story to tell. I could hear it moving her when she told me about it.  And me, well, I started writing two stories this month. Good ones, I think. But I had another story moving me—one I’ve been busy living. The others will just have to wait their turn.

What it boils down to, folks, is that while we have a shortage of words and will therefore “lose” NaNoWriMo2011, we have an embarrassment of riches, plenty of stories and projects to keep us busy for a long time. We have both a wonderful collaboration and a concrete support system in place for each other. So…let’s just call it a tie, why don’t we?

Thank you to everyone who’s encouraged us this month and who’s been reading our updates, even as they got sporadic and disappeared. I can’t wait to hear how NaNoWriMo turned out for everyone else!

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Days 8 and 9

I didn’t write on Day 8 and it looked like I wasn’t going to write on Day 9. Aimee and I had a pretty great conversation about the book today where we worked out some of the trickier issues with the time travel (yes, time travel, ha). We’ve had a few good conversations about the book the last few days, but I haven’t really felt excited about it unless we’re talking.

I mentioned this to Aimee tonight and suggested that we word war – with a twist. Together, we’d pick a scene and both write it separately. We’ve generally been on the same page (eerily so), so I thought it would inspire us and also reveal the aspects of the story we’re both leaning toward.

Aimee had a better suggestion. She said we should each assign a scene for the other to write. I thought it would be hard to assign her a scene – after all, I’ve been having trouble dreaming up scenes for myself to write. But almost instantly, I knew which scene she should write and she knew which to assign for me. And the best part is that they were perfect scenes for us to write – both naturally “our” scenes and challenging. She assigned me the first time one main character time travels. I assigned her the first time two characters meet.

And it worked! I got 834 words and she got 396 (she’s still writing). Which brings our NaNoWriMo totals to 4,762 and 4,104 respectively, as of this writing.

I have more of the scene I want to write, but need to go to bed. Meanwhile, we’re going to start assigning each other scenes to write every day. Part impetus, part writing prompt, all collaboration.

From our conversation after our very special word war/writing assignments:

Me: We’re great collaborators.

Aimee: Always were.

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 7

Long day at work. I just wrote 486 words after getting home. By hand, in case you were wondering. And also, I wrote the first few paragraphs of a short story I’ve been thinking about, not the novel with Aimee.

Aimee, how you doing?

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 6

The weekend was meant to be a big catchup, but that’s not exactly how it’s turned out. Or rather, I haven’t been able to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count as much as I’d like because I was catching up on other things – with friends, errands, a few necessary chores and with sleep.

NaNoWriMo is tough regardless. But when you’re working 60+ hour weeks and you have just two days to see your friends and do everything you weren’t able to do during the week, it gets tougher. One of the best things I did this weekend was re-read my NaNoWriMo posts from last year. Last year, I’d started a new film job (So Undercover) a week into NaNoWriMo, so I was able to get a big headstart and then when work started, it slowed down a bit. I struggled last year, too (after that first week). It’s easy to forget the struggles of the past in the current moment, but it’s important to remember. I struggled last year and I won last year.

Maurice gave me a pep speech while I was on my way back from the wedding last night. He said that I should write whatever interested me most. And while I like the story Aimee and I are writing for NaNoWriMo, I think I struggle with feeling like I can only write one thing. In all these years of doing NaNoWriMo and in all the years I’ve won, I’ve never finished an entire draft of a book, even if I did write 50,000 words. I got a great start on a book, but I’ve never been able to get through an entire story arc in 50,000 words. So why should I worry about only writing one thing anyway? If feeling locked into one story is causing stagnation, it’s defeating the purpose of NaNoWriMo – which is about pure creation.

So I hereby give myself permission to write whatever I want whenever I want, aiming for 2,000 words a day, whatever those words may be. And just in time, because there’s a short story I want to write…

I’ve written 170 words today, by the way. Tomorrow will be better.

Aimee, feel free to update when you get to a stopping point (or tomorrow).

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NaNoWriMo 2011 – Day 5

No words today for Ems. Wedding on the Northshore until late. Did you know it’s a $3 toll to get back across to New Orleans now? I didn’t. It used to only be $1. Clearly haven’t visited the Northshore in a long time, but it was a lovely wedding. The couple high-fived each other when the minister mentioned they’d been together nearly a decade now and someone drove a SUV with a giant t.v. in the back onto the lawn so everyone could watch the LSU-Bama game at the reception instead of rushing home. The cake was delicious (the groom’s cake was LSU-themed and in the shape of a fleur-de-lis) and everyone looked beautiful.

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 4

Behind. Not too worried because I’ve been here and done this before. And I have a plan.

This weekend: Ignore everything that can be ignored and write. Some things can’t be ignored – a friend is getting married, a few errands I have to run, the Saints game. Those are priorities. I’d like to get a bit ahead to pad myself for next week. But I’m not prepared, this year, at least not yet, to cut myself off as drastically as I’ll probably have to later this month. I’m feeling too restless and sociable. Plus, Aimee and I really need to have a conversation soon about those first few days of writing we’ve done.

Word count updates to come – if any words gets written. Aimee? You got updates?

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 3

Excuses.

There are a million of them. I think of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a children’s book that neatly explains the concept of the slippery slope from logic (the ONLY college course I almost failed) often – it’s one of the ruling philosophies of my life. If you give in to one excuse, you’ll give in to another and then three more and then ten more. And suddenly, you’re excusing yourself before you’ve even begun.

There are valid excuses, of course. Our children get sick. We have to work. We want to do something else, in any given moment, even if we have a glorious endeavor we’d like to complete. But we can get derailed so early, so easily.

And the reality is, without procrastination and excuses, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon this video:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

And, in turn, I wouldn’t have remembered experiencing my own murmuration of starlings on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway at 17 years old. And a story I will now write (surely, once all of my excuses are exhausted) might never have been written. Well, it’s not written yet. But it might be. Because I let myself be distracted. Which is another word for inspired.

Total word counts:

Aimee: 2,800 (approximate)

Emilie: 3,272 (348 words today)

NaNoWriMo Day 3 Goal: 4,998

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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 2

Aimee and I both tend to start with character and expand outward in our individual writing. When I start with plot, I struggle much more, like I’m forcing puzzle pieces where they don’t belong. I might get them to fit, but they won’t slip in easily, like they do when they’re meant to make a picture.

Clearly, I like my metaphors.

Anyway, I mention this because the story that Aimee and I are writing together this NaNoWriMo started out with plot, which worried both of us. Who are the characters?, we’ve been asking the last few weeks, trying to find those comforting building blocks to balance the rest of The Story on. NaNoWriMo 2011 got closer and closer and still, we were no closer to our characters.

Jamey suggested we start with archetypes and since our story is sci-fi/fantasy and this is a rough, rough draft, it seemed like a good piece of advice. I found a random list of archetypes and sent them to Aimee. I don’t know that either of us actually read most of the list, but the IDEA of archetypes seemed to unlock us a little bit.

Suddenly, we both knew (independently and at the same time) and later confirmed with each other:

Our main characters are sisters. In the face of an apocalypse, the sisters each make a decision that takes them far away from each other. They’re fighting for the same goal from two different directions. They are not going to be together during our book, but will have their own separate adventures and struggles. And because they will miss each other and have a strong sense of the other in her absence, we’ll be able to excavate our characters, to carve them out of the block of dense marble. (Metaphors, addiction, remember?)

These are my thoughts, anyway, having just read Aimee’s Day 1 words, three excellent pages. She may have fewer words than me at the moment (or she did earlier today anyway), but she’s using a finer brush than me. Right now, my strokes are incredibly broad. I’m inspired and excited by her more detailed work on our story.

Word count update to come…

Post-midnight update: I’ve written 939 words today, since getting home from work, bringing my grand NaNoWriMo total to 2,924 (about 400 words short). I’m not sure about Aimee’s total yet because she has been tending to a sick child. Her son gets sick on November 1st every year, without fail. But at least we know this is going to happen every year and that she’s going to win anyway. I don’t like being behind myself, but I’m falling asleep so it’ll just have to stand for the moment.

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Sisters in NaNoWriMo

A photo of your bloggers, taken by Aimee's son

By Emilie

In 2007, I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. I sent out the e-mail the organizers suggest, warning friends and family of what you are about to attempt and asking them for encouragement and accountability. My sister Aimee got that e-mail and was my biggest cheerleader that year.

We wrote together as kids. It came naturally to us both to tell stories together and to write them down. I wrote about this experience going into NaNoWriMo 2009, never realizing how much it had formed me until the story flowed out of me.

Aimee attempted NaNoWriMo alongside me in 2008, but we both failed to write the full 50,000 words. However, we have now supported each other to TWO NaNoWriMo wins in 2009 and 2010. I’ve learned more from Aimee’s wins than I have from my own (and I learn a lot from my own). She gets behind every year and only her determination to keep going brings her across the finish line.

And we’re hoping to win again in 2011, but it’s a bit different this year. Because now we’re writing together again. We’ve been talking about a story for a few months and at 12:01 on November 1st, we began writing.

Our first word counts were modest, under 1,000 each. But we wrote hundreds of words in a half hour. We began construction on a world and a few people who hadn’t existed were born.

Despite the enormous hurdles that always come with this wicked and crazy challenge, I feel more excited than ever because I am writing again with my original collaborator. It makes me feel like a kid again and that all things are possible, if we only just get started.

By Aimee

As I sit here trying to write about NaNoWriMo (instead of writing for it), my son is lying next to me hot with fever, coughing intermittently, and breathing with difficulty.  This is my fourth NaNoWriMo beginning, and the fourth time my son has decided to be ill on Nov. 1.  Already wholly unprepared for it to be November again, I feel almost defeated before I’ve begun (okay, shortly after I’ve begun).  Almost. Because this year, I agreed to partner with my sister. Write a novel together. Just like when we wrote stories on notebook paper and No. 2 pencils. When Emilie used an eraser. Gasp. I was excited about it even. Until about a week ago. Sure, let me add one more deadline in the ocean of deadlines that is my life. Insecurity. Doubt. Panic. I haven’t prepared. I didn’t know it was November already. I’m not a writer anymore. I spend my days reading manuscripts, not writing them. It’s only Nov. 1, and I’m already exhausted. At least my son is finally sleeping.

Where was I? Oh, writing. I’ve thought about what the past NaNoWriMos have done for me and how Emilie has encouraged me, challenged me, inspired me, and kicked my butt to keep me writing. But as I write, what really matters to me this year isn’t any of those things (even though I am grateful every day for those same things—they’ve changed my future). When I think of this year’s novel—our novel—I see two little girls with No. 2 pencils. Two little girls in love with a good story. Who decided that they had their own stories to tell. I’m honored to be here with you again, Emie. But let me warn you, I’ve decided I won’t be writing this November. Thanks yet again for the reminder that it’s so much simpler. What is better than a good story?

Break out the pencils. I’m ready to tell a story.

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November 1, 2011 · 11:54 pm

NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 1

Last year, I checked in almost every day during the month of November, updating y’all on my NaNoWriMo progress. This year, I’m gonna shoot for every day. Let’s see how it goes.

First, let me say that November has got to be the worst month to do a project as large as 50,000 words. Why? Because the first day of the project follows a holiday where you are often tired, hungover and/or recovering. Then, there’s the fact that there’s ANOTHER big holiday at the tail end of the month. Lastly, there are only 30 days and because it’s near the end of the year and leading up to Christmas, there is SO MUCH wrapping up (of the year, of presents) to do.

Regardless. I am going to win. Just like I won last year, despite the odds (and they were tremendous). Those things I whined about in the above paragraph don’t change from year-to-year, so we have to go into this process with our eyes wide open.

Sister Aimee and I have hunkered down the last few years and cheered each other on. In 2009, I wrote about our history of writing together as children and how NaNoWriMo saved my life. But this year, we’re not just cheering each other on in the process, we’re writing together. We’ve each committed to writing 50,000 words of a joint story. We’re working out how that’s going to happen, so it’s a big adventure.

So. Day 1. We waited patiently for midnight last night (luckily we’re in the same time zone) and then, even though I was personally drooping in exhaustion, we word-warred for a half hour. Aimee got 714 words and I got 909.

We’re going to try to get our totals up to 1,667 before midnight. Let’s see if we can do it.

Post-midnight update: Aimee is now at 1,464 total words and I am at 1,985. When it comes to word wars, she and I are the definition of the tortoise and the hare. And you know which one won the race…

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