NaNoWriMo Preparation: Bookish Questions

This year, I’ll be using a few choice writing books to act as a NaNoWriMo Guide System, one of these books will be Book In A Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.
book in a month
Now the BIAM system is 80000 words instead of 50000 words, however as I managed to write just over 50000 for last year’s NaNoWriMo, I think I can manage this. My first challenge was getting access to the worksheets, which was more difficult than I first anticipated, however most of them can be found here.

One of the Writing Exercises in BIAM was to answer a few questions with relation to the Novel Project the writer in question is about to embark upon, here are my responses:
Why do you want to write?
I think that deep down the majority of people who become writers are people who have a message to give the world and while I don’t expect anyone to read it or to receive a reply in return, I still want to send that message out into the world regardless.

Why do you have to write?
Well the honest answer is because I don’t think I’m good at anything else, I am not very talented at many things, Writing just happens to be one of things I’m willing to spend time improving upon.

How will your life be different after you finish this manuscript? What will change?
I don’t think my life will change in any kind of drastic way, but I will feel different about my life, by “finish” you mean written, edited and published right? Because that’s the definition I’m working with.

How will your life be different after you finish three manuscripts? (Will you feel like a “real” writer?)
I suppose I will feel more like a “real” writer, as in “Holy Shit-Balls! I can actually do this!”

How will you feel about yourself after you finish this manuscript? (Will you have more confidence?)
I suppose I’ll feel less like a failure and more like I’m actually practicing what I’m preaching

How will this feeling help you accomplish other things in life?
I’m not going to be naive and think, “If I can achieve my life-long dream of writing, editing and publishing a book, then I can do anything!” because I know that just won’t happen, but I hope the novel writing process will seem less intimidating afterwards

Write down a list of your main priorities so you will know where to draw the line when requests are made for your time:
~Writing my Novel
~Getting my driver’s licence
~While I know during November this might not be the best time, I’d like to try and catch up with friends more or at least try and be more social

Now that you know your priorities in life, write down a list of things that take up your time and are not on your priority list:
~Social Media – Blogging, Facebook and YouTube are my biggest sucks of time, however twitter is quite useful for Writing
~The Internet – Looking at stuff for faux-future-novel-research, especially cracked articles

Why don’t you want to finish this manuscript?
Umm… Did you perhaps mean “what might hold you back from finishing this novel?” because I can answer that one, fear of failure is a big obstacle for me, rejection is another because a part of me honestly wonders if I’m a good enough and, I’m not sure if this is the right term for it, but a lack of constructive criticism, I want readers to say they genuinely liked it because they liked it, not because they are just telling me what I want to hear or are afraid of hurting my feelings.

What will happen to you if you finish it?
Well I’ll have a finished manuscript

You would love to start this 30-day plan, however
Like any creative I have misgivings, I get easily distracted and I’m terribly insecure, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I firmly believe that a person’s value stems from the sum of their parts, flaws and facets, not the individual pieces.

If you became a great author
Umm… Well I suppose it depends on what your definition of a great author is. Me? I just want to set up my freelance business, write/edit/publish two-three novels a year, and teach creative writing, to me that would be greatness.

You can’t finish an entire manuscript in 30 days because
I suspect I’m terrible at time management, it’s area I’m hoping to improve upon

You can finish an entire manuscript in 30 days because
Because this is something I really want to do and the consequences of failure, looking like a phony hack, aren’t something I’m willing to deal with

If you did finish this manuscript, you would feel
Satisfied, happy and a little apprehensive, because as soon as you’ve finished the writing journey, the editing journey takes it’s place

Your writing benchmarks are
Action scenes, I’ve planned to have a few space-battles (if that’s the right term for it) and I’m looking forward to writing them, I’m also looking forward to the Character Arch my character Liliana is going to go through

What are you passionate about?
Many things, such as Reading, Writing, Tea, Nachos and Pokemon (just to name a few). You know come to think of it, nachos and Pokemon crop up in my Metamorphosis novel as bonding activities, I hadn’t realised that until now.

What gives you energy and motivates you?
Food and vast quantities of tea

What keeps showing up again and again in your stories or the stories you love to read?
Perseverance I suppose, unlikely heroes is another, how sometimes you may win the battle of the physical, but not the war of the minds (does that make sense? Oh well)

What is important to you creatively? Do you want to educate? Entertain? Scare?
I do want to educate, but I don’t want to preach, I want to point out shitty attitudes society has but holds in such high esteem, I also want to write about how it’s important to do the right thing, but people are seldom rewarded for it.

Do you have a personal cause or agenda that defines you? (Feminism?
Animal rescue? Global warming?)

I am a Feminist (*SHOCK/HORROR/GASP*) but I don’t define my whole personality around it.

What types of books do you enjoy?
Fantasy (Urban or Epic), I like Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance (when it’s done well and properly researched), but I will read stuff people I know have recommended to me, even if it doesn’t sound like my usual thing

What types of stories did you like as a child?
The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, The Far-Away Tree series, The Adventures of The Wishing Chair (and it’s terribly named sequel The Wishing Chair Again).

If you had to describe your work as a whole in a single line, what would that line be? (Heartfelt stories that make you cry? Smart, steamy romances? Hardcore heroes who risk everything?)
Dark and depressing Fantasy stories featuring snarky characters

How would you like your work to be remembered?
I suppose I would like to be remembered as a the dark feminist love-child of Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling (so, you know, no pressure), however that will probably never happen, but I would be willing to settle for the glamorous title of “That Aussie chick who writes dark fantasy”

Which genre is best for your writing style and interests?
Not sure, I love to read Fantasy but the majority of the stuff I write is Modern Suburbia type stuff, also Metamorphosis is Science Fiction, so work that one out.

One-Sentence Pitch
Feminist Woman (and survivor of sexual assault) meets an Alien Robot (and his eccentric Robot Alien/Alien Shape-shifter family) and they have adventures in space(?) I don’t know, I’ll have to work on that one.

5 comments

  1. How will your life be different after you finish three manuscripts? (Will you feel like a “real” writer?)
    I suppose I will feel more like a “real” writer, as in “Holy Shit-Balls! I can actually do this!”

    That was supposed to happen a whole manuscript ago? *looks around* Hey, moment of realisation, where the fuck did you go?

    • Well for me, when I write/edit/publish my first manuscript I’ll be more inclined to think it was a fluke, but by the third time around I suppose it would feel like more a confirmation. But that’s a personal thing.
      To me, you have accomplished so much, and you’re an amazing writer, editor and self-publisher. However, I understand that it’s difficult to see ourselves the way others see us, especially when we’re going through a rough time. I’m sure you’ll find your MoR soon enough.

      • Thank you for your kind words, Julia.

        I didn’t mean to fish, and I’m sorry if I come across that way. And I’m sorry because that sentence is beyond absurd – there’s a part of me thinking that first sentence is an inappropriate response, because one should just be able to accept supportive comments as the precious gift they are. I really don’t know how to respond to this comment … so I now have a topic for my psychologist on Wednesday, because a few simple, kind words are doing my head in. (And don’t feel bad about that: that’s all on me. I don’t ever want anyone to feel bad because they were a decent person!) To the extent that it makes me wonder if my struggle to talk to people about what’s going on with me is in fact an avoidance of people being supportive, because I can’t deal with it, actually. And the fact that just thinking that makes me want to cry is … interesting.

        Even when I’m stable I never felt that particular experience of confirmation. I’m actually skeptical that it even exists, to be honest; I do believe that we writers need to learn to work without that sense of confidence and achievement, because every manuscript of mine has felt like a fluke. This said, the fact I never experienced that could be a sign of my glorious mental health challenges, too. I hope you get to a point where you experience this certainty, because I do think it a beautiful thing … and for those of us who don’t experience it, well, that’s okay, too. It’s not a failing if we don’t. We just have to find our strength and motivation elsewhere – things that shore us up in the absence of certainty. I have that in my feelings on queer heroes with mental illness.

        I don’t want anyone’s heart to break because they never feel certain, you know? You can never at any point feel certain and still create, produce, accomplish. Maybe I’m proof of that.

      • To be honest, while I say I think I’d feel more like a “real writer” by the third finished manuscript, a part of me knows that’s wishful thinking. A major part of me is like “Julia, you can’t finish one manuscript so far and you expect to finish three, good lord, you must enjoy setting yourself up for failure.” To me, I suffer from the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy problem, for example the first time I made this type of cheesecake with instant set gelatin, I made it perfectly and everybody loved it, including people who normally didn’t like cheesecake at all. However, I haven’t been able to replicate those results since, I screw it up every time. I mean I know why, I’m putting so much pressure on myself and I’m so worried about all the scrutiny I’m going to get, so naturally I screw it up. I understand that this is my problem, that I need to let go of my anxiety and stop worrying about trivial things, but it’s difficult to put into practice.

        I think it goes hand in hand with an article I read while doing the diploma was about how fear is constant dogging part of the creative process. For example, the author of the article interviewed a group of work-shopping writers who had yet to publish a novel and their fear was that it would never be published and that they would never be good enough (sounds like a reasonable train of thought right. Then the author of the article interviewed an writer that had managed to land a publishing contract with a mainstream publisher and the interviewing-author asked “So, you’ve accomplished what most writers dream of, are you still afraid of creative failure?” and the publisher said, “Yes, before I was just afraid I wouldn’t be able to be published, now I’m afraid I’ll be nothing more than a one-hit wonder, that my publishers won’t be interested in my latest book, that I won’t earn enough sales to earn back my advance.” So to me, when we overcome one fear obstacle within the creative industry, it seems as though another type of fear replaces it, maybe it’s a constant thing writers need to repeatedly overcome as you’ve previously said.

        This will probably sound a little stupid (and mostly likely narcissistic) but I have struggled to accept compliments all my life. When I was a teenager dealing with serious depression I came to the self-absorbed conclusion that I was responsible for every bad/miserable thing happening around me, looking back I understand that as a justification to not exist, that the people I care about would be better off without me, but that’s just the warped perception problem of depression, at the time it seems like a reasonable and legitimate answer. As a result I couldn’t listen to people compliment me in anyway shape of form without getting incredibly angry, I wouldn’t voice that anger, instead I’d just let it fester and lash out at imaginary characters in Fanfiction.

        If I appear to be well balanced and confident now, well I am a reasonably good actor and I know I’ve come a long way since high school, however one of the ways I developed dealing with compliments was to accept compliments that had specific details in it, that way I had an easier time separating generic irritating and potentially false compliments (“Wow, that’s nice,” or “you look great”) from constructive compliments (“That’s a nice shirt, such a lovely bright colour” or “your chapter was good, I liked the dialogue”). In future, would this system of compliments be of assistance to you? As in “I like this chapter because it has good qualities such as A, B and C” or “You’re an amazing person because you have attributes X, Y and Z” Sorry in advance if I’m just making the problem worse.

  2. I’m going to don my armchair psychologist hat and ask you something, but don’t feel you have to respond – the only person who needs this answer is you. Do you know why you write? What your core truth is as a creative – your raison d’être? Do you know the many things you bring to a creative project? I don’t mean what your strengths are or what you’re good at – what you know about the world, as the sum total of your identity and experiences, that nobody else can communicate in quite the same way (or something that is still not said enough you have to get up and speak)? Why your story needs to be extant? What you are saying in your writing? I also don’t mean the answer you feel others need to hear; I mean the gut-level truth that is your relationship with words. Can you identify this truth? Because in knowing this, I don’t lack for drive to finish a manuscript. I lack consistency and discipline in that I flitter from project to project, but the manuscript rather finishes itself. I struggle to do many other things I need to do because I doubt I can do them; I don’t think there’s anything unique I can bring to editing or design, to be honest, and maybe I need to find that uniqueness to be motivated in these things again. I need to find who I am as an editor and a designer – my style and my truth. But writing? I know my truth. For a long time I was too scared to admit it, and I denied my truth to myself such that I didn’t believe I had one, but it was there. I suppose I do have a kind of certainty, now I’m writing this – not certainty that I’m good or anything but lucky, but certainty that this is what I need to be doing. I know exactly what I’m meaning to do with my words. I know what tropes I’m fighting against. I know why my words matter, and self-fulfilling prophecies don’t get a look in.

    (And I refuse to believe, utterly, that you don’t have a truth. You might not see it or know it, but every creative who invests so much time in their creativity must have it or how could you be creative in the first place? Which is a lesson I need right now, in fact.)

    I’m terrible at letting go of my anxiety. Sometimes I just do shit anyway, which isn’t the same thing. Sometimes I look at the anxiety-ridden heroes I write and tell myself that nothing I do would be anywhere near as profound without that anxiety.

    Right now I’m afraid that I’ll never make enough money from self-publishing to make half a living, that I’ll never get an agent because my brand of fantasy doesn’t have enough action and for some reason speculative fiction is so damn heavy on the fight scenes (I’m just ignoring the pronoun question, seriously, because that’s out of my hands), that I’ve written the first book and won’t be able to figure out how to make the second book get to a point where it leads to the third book mapped out in my head, that I won’t be able to write the action sequences required for the climax in the third book, that I won’t be able to make the middle and the end in Great-Aunty Lizzie match up, that the short story I want to write about Steve’s gender actually has no plot and isn’t a short story … oh, I could go on. So yes, I thoroughly believe your case example.

    Isn’t it fascinating how people can have the same disease and have varied internal experiences of that diagnosis? I’m saying in my next post that the experience of being queer is intensely individualistic, and I think mental illness applies, too. I don’t quite know the experience of feeling that everyone would be better off without me, to be honest, and I spent most of my life so repressed that discovering anger over the past couple of years has been a weird, weird thing. (Even now I often skip anger and go directly to hurt.) I knew I was a failure at everything people wanted me to be, but I’ve been rescuing and propping-up people for so much of my life my truth is in fact that they needed me. I knew I’d be better off without them, and that was where my suicidal bent went…

    (I’m saying this because I think it’s really important that we get to sit down and discuss all the individualistic shapes of our experience; dialogues like this, between two people with experiences of depression that are shaped by so many factors, are so important. And I’m thinking that this is your truth, too: your individualistic mental illness experience.)

    Also, people with mental illness are AMAZING actors in a world that doesn’t want to see us and discourages our dialogue. I’m actually writing a short story about a character who is so vicacious and outgoing his boyfriend doesn’t believe him when he says he attempted suicide, because I’m tired of the very narrow idea of what people with mental illness look like. This character, like you and me, can act his arse off, but that doesn’t make our depression any less real (it just makes it harder to be taken seriously).

    I don’t struggle so much, these days, with compliments. I can say thank you. A little bit of me even knows they’re true much of the time, and I know to stamp on the part of me that feels like compliments are just an obvious statement of truth I shouldn’t need to hear. I’ve got a whole heap of social training that says I’m not allowed to admit I’m good at anything, but I also know it’s damn rude to tell anyone their compliments aren’t true, so I try not to. I fail, sometimes, because it’s a tough habit to break, but I’m trying. My problem is that I don’t feel my successes are anything other than, oh, basic ordinary level for being a regular human being, which means that I expect people to be able to do everything I can do because I’m in no way talented, so compliments directed at me feel … like complimenting the sky for being blue. There’s a really cruel arrogance in that for me and other people, and a lot of it has to do with so very rarely being complimented for twenty-seven years. (If I actually deserved compliments for being in any way noteworthy, wouldn’t the people who loved me have given them to me?) It’s an awkward experience, but I’m getting a lot better at handling it; I can fall back on the ‘thank you’ rule, and I’ve been complimented enough over the last couple of years, because I do have some talent, that I’ve gotten experience in that area.

    Expressions of sympathy, though, which isn’t the same thing? That is just … well, I grew up in a household utterly bereft of sympathy, and that’s apparently something I haven’t figured out how to handle. For someone who was pretty much a victim for so much of my life, I have some absurd hero-rescuer issues, because I can hand out sympathy like it’s going out of fashion and fall apart as soon as it’s offered to me. Of course, I know now that I was never really allowed to be a victim in the first place and never received any empathy for it…

    As in “I like this chapter because it has good qualities such as A, B and C” or “You’re an amazing person because you have attributes X, Y and Z”

    In terms of giving compliments, these are the kinds I prefer to give – I hate generic comments. In AFW workshops last year everyone else would begin ‘I really liked your story’ and I can’t make myself say those useless-feeling-to-me words. It feels pointless, so I get specific, and I can’t stand bulking out feedback or compliments with something that isn’t targeted and real. Although I also know that generic-sounding words are often no less real by the speaker (and often said by people who don’t have the ability to be specific or understand why specificity matters to the listener – that kind of empathetic awareness is discouraged in Western society, after all) so I need to work on being less judgemental in that regard…

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