NaNoWriMo Day 1: Pantsing vs Planning

Words Written Today: 1,900
Total Words Written: 1,900
November 1, 9:00pm

NaNoWriMo is upon us writers once again. And I am ecstatic.

Well, kind of.

Every other year I get so incredibly excited for NaNoWriMo, to the point where I’m prepping my novel in September, and writing out details for every character and every chapter and just everything.

You see, generally, I’m a planner.

This year, however, I’m not gonna lie. November kinda snuck up on me. I actually completely forgot about NaNoWriMo because of all my stress about school, and midterms coming up, and projects, and extracurricular stuff and more. NaNoWriMo wasn’t even close to being in my priorities. But then, this afternoon, I just kinda decided to go for it.

I haven’t written in such a long time, so when I opened up some documents and outlines to write for this month, all my love for them had depressingly drained out. And I had no time to write an outline.

What was I supposed to do?

I pantsed my story.

This is something I’ve never done. Yet I had nearly 2,000 easy words down in around an hour. This is a more than rare occurance for me. But I’m kind of happy I’m doing it, as of now.

I think that if you prep too much for a story, it becomes less fun to write. Because then you feel you have to stick to the outline and the structure so much that the story loses all the surprises and the fun stuff to write. But now, I’m just kinda going for it.

Let’s hope I stick with it, though.

Happy writing,

Sarah

*Add me as a buddy! http://nanowrimo.org/participants/sarahkalmakoff

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Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Review)

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Rating: 4/5 stars
Genres: Romance, Panaromal, YA Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 599
Goodreads:
Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

A few years ago, I read the first book in the Uglies series (very cleverly titled Uglies—unless I’m wrong and the series has another name?). Then last year, I read the Leviathan trilogy. All four of these books by Scott Westerfeld blew me away. This is why I had to pick up Afterworlds. Now, of course it’s taking me almost a year to pick up since it came out, but I had it. The beautiful tear drop-covered glory was on my shelf, in it’s tall and heavy hardcover book magnificence.

I was just too intimidated to read it. I mean, come on. 600 pages? That would take me forever to read, and I was not up for that heavy kind of reading during the school year. Nor the summer for that matter, when I just want to read light books that I can read quickly. Right? Wrong.

The moment I picked up Afterworlds and began reading the stories of Darcy and Lizzie, I was instantly entranced. I read the 600-page book in only 3 days (one of which was a school day!). And I loved every minute of it. It was incredibly satisfying for being a stand-alone, but it was satisfying in the way that left you desperately wanting more.

Darcy’s story begins with a one-page chapter that gives the perfect opening to the book. It doesn’t reveal much, but it gives a clear and concise beginning slate of the story. Immediately following is the first chapter of Lizzie’s gruesome story (well, her story isn’t necessarily gruesome, but the chapter is). Westerfeld captures is able to write with the voice of a seventeen-year-old writer for Darcy’s manuscript. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. He managed to make the two stories completely separate, and write Darcy’s Afterworlds in a way that didn’t feel like his writing, even though you knew it was his all along.

Both stories were incredibly powerful in that they promoted living in the now and not waiting for life to come for you, but to chase after life. The only problems I had were with the romances. I was really confused about where Yamaraj and Lizzie’s romance/love came from in the story, because it felt a little forced and rushed, and then Darcy and her love interest also popped up out of nowhere. Like, it had no beginning in the chapters leading up to it, yet it somehow came to be in the middle of the book (I’m withholding the name of her love interest to avoid spoilers).

All in all, I was really impressed with the book. It would be incredibly difficult to write two novels, and then tie them together in the way that Scott Westerfeld did. I also loved the little insiders on the publishing system and “YA heaven” in New York. As a writer, it’s my dream to go to N.Y. to write, and I love how Westerfeld takes that idea and makes it feel real and possible.

I also thought it was such an interesting idea to have the cover of Darcy’s Afterworlds to be the cover for Westerfeld’s Afterworlds. 

Now then, on to reading another book. Happy reading.

5 Easy Ways to Write More

Oftentimes we find ourselves caught up in what’s going on from a day-to-day basis. We forget small hobbies and interests, goals we’d been meaning to achieve, checking up on our clan on our phones… We lost track of what we really want to be doing. And for lots of us (I’m assuming you came to this blog expecting writing advice and geeked-out posts about books–don’t worry, you came to the right place) writing is one of those things that we really want to be doing, but just don’t have the time to do. Well, today I’m writing to help you get out of that muddled mess of lost priorities.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Why am I not writing?

Did I lose motivation?

Did I hit a point of writer’s block? Or a plot hole?

Did I let myself get carried away with the rest of my life and lost track of where I wanted to be in my writing career?

Now, you see, these questions are coming from the mind of one of the worst procrastinators and late-night crammers. (Okay, that makes me sound bad. I promise I still get everything done… Just not in a healthy way–stress headaches here we come!) But nonetheless, when I lose track of where I want to be in my writing, I often find myself asking these very questions. And usually, a little bit of reflection, some coffee, and a whole lot of nagging can get me to start writing again.

Coming from those questions, what are some reasons why you are not writing? Could it be that you don’t have enough time? You lost the habit and never tried to get it back up and running again? Whatever the case may be, there is a very good chance that you want to get back into the habit of writing. Because let’s be honest here. You’re here reading this blog because you love to write or read. Whether you’ve written before or are just dipping your toes into the waters, you have shown some sort of interest and developing a habit to write. And with writing, habit is almost essential.

Here are five easy ways to get yourself to write more and be a better writer.

1. Read.

This probably already sounds like a bad step. I promise you, it is not. I have not come across a single writer who does not like (love) to read. We read for inspiration. You must read more to expand your knowledge of all genres of literature (or specifically the genre you prefer to write in). Read bad books and amazing books to get a taste of what you want your writing to be. Analyze stories carefully and take notes on what the author did that was effective, and what wasn’t. Write down special ways the author moved the plot along and how they gave their characters life and what you can gather from this to incorporate into your own writing. Read for fun, but also as research.

2. Carry a notebook around everywhere (or use your cellphone, you technologically advanced being, you).

Take notes on every single idea that comes to mind. Immediately, or as soon as possible. If you come up with an idea for a character, a line, a title, a plot twist, an entire plot in general, anything. Write it down. You may think that you’ll remember it after the walk from the bus to your office, or from the dinner table to your bedroom, but after just a couple minutes, you’ll find that the amazing idea is lost within a whirlwind of other ideas. I used to find that this was where I lost a lot of my story ideas.

3. Make a habit of daily writing.

Without writing every day, you’ll find that you slowly become less and less consistent with your writing. Sure, you might jot down the odd phrase every now and then, or go at it for two hours every once a month, but that is not going to improve your writing. I always find that if I start drifting away from daily or bi-daily writing, I become distant from my story, and my entire manuscript goes to crap and I can hardly pick it back up after. Making writing a daily thing is super hard. It feels impossible for the first while. But, you know how they say that it takes around 21 days to a month to form a habit (if you didn’t know, now you do)? NaNoWriMo is a month long, but oftentimes, no real habit is formed. That’s because you’re pushing yourself a lot more than usual. Write (daily or bi-daily) at a pace that is good for you. Otherwise, you may become overwhelmed and give up. Then you’re back to Stage One.

4. Keep track of your writing.

I find spreadsheets to be really nice to keep track of how much I’m writing and when. I usually throw the date in there, how long I’m writing for, be it sprinting or just leisurely writing, and then how many words I got down. Afterwards, I total up the times and the wordcount for the day. This honestly helps so much. It helps you to notice your patterns of writing, how long you need to write–or how short–to get your best wordcount, and if you put down times, when you are able to write the most (for me, it’s at night). If you make a habit of doing this alongside writing, you’ll see a lot of improvements.
Here’s an example of what one of my spreadsheets would look like:

Spreadsheet example.

Spreadsheet example.

5. Find motivation in everything. 

Whether it’s Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, real life and not the Internet–anything! Inspiration and motivation can be found all around you. Use whatever little thing you can get to motivate you to write, and inspire you to create. This one is most likely the hardest and the easiest way to write more in this entire post.

Well, that’s all I have for you today. If you have any more ways that you use to write more, or ones you think I should consider to add, drop a comment below and let me know!

Happy writing everyone!