Well, I took on the challenge for the 8th time and I think I'll manage the 50k words that count as 'success'. But it took me ages to get into the swing of the story. Some of my readers have been kinder than others about this!
At the end of the day, I'll know far more about these characters than I do about most of the people who occupy my head during November - which can only be a good thing. But as for the story... I think the main problem is that I've dragged what should have been a long short story out into a short novel. Or maybe I didn't plan enough before I started. Because I didn't plan. At all.
Still, experiences of all kinds - and Nano in particular - are there to teach us stuff. And I now know that if I've been planning a story for a couple of months (which I had), it's probably better to go with that than to try to come up with something a couple of days before the start. And I also know that if I don't have a story well planned, I can't suddenly lift one out of thin air.
I never plan my Nano-novels too carefully because I'm worried about being too restrictive. But it is helpful to have some kind of outline for the purposes of pacing if nothing else!
So, at the end of this exercise, I'll have 50,000 words but not a novel.
On Friday, I visited Helium and picked a number of assignments from those available, a couple of which were due within 4 days. I was confident I would be able to make a start on them over the weekend - a first draft, at least. 500 words - I can knock that out in half-an-hour!
Sadly, life in various forms took over my weekend leaving me with no time for writing, let alone researching the biography of Michael Crawford that was amongst the assignments. Yesterday, I finally sat down to write and found that there were only 12 hours left in which to submit said biography.
Well, I searched the web and found out some interesting things about Mr Crawford (including the facts that he's been on Desert Island Discs three times and now lives in New Zealand) and threw them together in some kind of coherent order. I then had to fight with Helium's slightly strange publishing method but I got it in within the deadline.
Is it the greatest thing I've ever written? Probably not - but I wouldn't count it amongst the worst, either. I'm getting to grips with this business of writing quickly!
The great thing about deadlines is that they focus the mind. If you only have a certain number of hours to produce something, you need to make those hours count. Drop everything else and think about that one thing. If you need to research before you write, your focus narrows down to the information that is most relevant - and most easily available! You then need to sort through the results, rearrange your notes and write around them to produce a narrative that flows. Hopefully, you also have time to read through the piece at least a couple of times, tweaking as you go.
And before you know it, you have a piece that is worthy of being read by other people!
I now have accounts at four different websites, all of which promise cash for words. Below is a brief summary of the experience so far.
Very detailed profile, which felt promising. I actually updated this site based on what I'd put in there. However, after 9 days I'm still getting a message promising to put me into a programme as soon as one matches my profile. Of course, it may be that I need to make a change to my profile - but what?
The first thing to say is that they won't pay me because I'm not an American citizen. Still, having my writing on a public site can only be a good thing, right? Well, it would be if they'd publish my article. I submitted it for approval a week ago and still haven't heard back.
I have to admit that I haven't really engaged with Wikinut, yet. I need to, though, because if you don't keep up at least a 1 star rating (I'm not even sure how you do that!) they charge you for having an inactive account. So, watch this space on this one!
OK, I have to admit that after just one day I'm in love. Sooo simple - write an article and publish it. A very nice editor will then check it over (remember - 1 space between words and capitalise those 'I's!) and let you know if they've made any changes. How great is that? Of course there is a 'but' - but only a small one! You have to promise not to publish your article anywhere else for at least a year.
Overall, I think this is a good way of cutting my on-line writer's teeth. Articles for all of these sites are short - 500-2,000 words - so, all you need is an idea and a keyboard. Yahoo Voices and Helium have prompts in case you're lacking in inspiration - some of the ones on Helium pay quite well, too. Being able to bang out an article or two a day gives a real sense of accomplishment, too!
I do want to move on and start finding 'real' paid work but the rest of this year looks like it could be quite hectic. I think it will form a New Year's resolution, though!
So, when is the best time to write? Early in the morning when the brain cells are fresh? Or last thing at night when the rest of the family is winding down? Or just when inspiration strikes?
I've tried all of them and I don't think one works best all the time. Like most things (at least for me), the answer is - it depends.
At the moment, mornings are pretty hectic so squeezing in an hour's writing isn't really possible. The evenings are much quieter, though, making it easier to take myself off and type out a few hundred words. It never hurts to snatch a few minutes here and there, though, as the opportunity arises!
Yesterday, I gave in and signed up for Twitter. I've been resisting it for a long time but if I'm serious about getting my name out there as a writer, it seems that I need Twitter (as well as Facebook and a blog that actually has, you know, content...) I'm following a number of writing and news sites - no celebs (at least, not yet!).
Last night I saw an article on Huffington Post about a man who produces 'flat pack' houses that can be built in a day. It reminded me of some research I did about fourteen years ago into straw bale houses. What I particularly liked about the idea was that straw bales are light enough for anyone to carry, so the whole family can help to build a house.
Last night, I did an internet search and found lots and lots of different websites offering information - including architectural services - on building with straw. All promoted the economic and 'green' benefits. Nowhere did I see a picture of a child carrying a straw bale. I originally intended to write about building straw houses but the article actually became a 'how the world has changed' piece. Nowadays, we use the internet as our primary source of information, economics outweigh all other considerations but we do want to know that we're being 'green'.
But if I hadn't joined Twitter, I wouldn't have seen the original article and I never would have written anything! So, maybe there is something to this Twitter thing, after all...
Today, I signed up for two freelance writing sites - Skywords and Yahoo Voices - with a view to earning some money. It was a bit of a faff filling in the profiles but they are detailed for reason - to help connect you with suitable jobs! Yahoo Voices also has an 'academy' that is designed to help you create good content.
I'll post about I get on.
I've just discovered there's a stats thing here - three months in, it's probably about time!
Apparently I'm getting quite a bit of traffic (mostly from the US but also from The Chezch Republic of all places). Tuesdays are popular for some reason. This is all very encouraging but (as with fanfiction.net) it would be nice if visitors told me what they thought...
I'm in the midst of writing a story for submission to Shotgun Honey and one of the rules is that the story mustn't be longer than 700 words - so tight, it threatens to burst at the seams! In the usual way, I've asked some reader(/writer) friends to beta it for me and one of the responses that I got back was that the word limit was ridiculously short - how could you possibly develop a story within that limit?
Well, that's kind of the point, isn't it? It takes skill to tell a whole story that can be read in the time it takes to eat a biscuit. One of their recent tales - Cast Iron - is a perfect example of how to do it well. Maybe I just can't do it...?
Now and then a vague idea wanders through my head and says, "Hello". Some of them hang around for a chat, most just wander off again. Occasionally, something more definite appears, a fully-formed character or a plot that really pulls at me. I rarely have to go looking for ideas, which is probably why I very rarely note ideas down. Of course, this usually results in the idea being lost forever :D
So, any ideas that do wander my way, I am now trying to capture here on my blog, however vague and unformed. At least I'll have a chance of retrieving them if I ever need them!
So, I managed 6 short stories in November. Not prolific but I learned a few things.
- Short stories are not easier to write than long ones!
- I can write short stories as long as I remember point 1.
- I can write in different genres - including romance.
- Having a notebook for jotting down ideas doesn't seem to help much.
- I can make time for writing in the midst of ordinary life if I try.
In general, I've found the exercise a satisfying one, if only because it's possible to turn out a whole story in one sitting. However, it still has to be about something - perhaps even more so than a full-length novel. The characters must appear fully formed - there's very little time for development, after all! And some form of twist or 'reveal' at the end can really make the story.
I also enjoyed having each story begin in the same way and then watch as they diverted in so many different directions. I failed miserably at the common objects thing, though - but it should be fairly easy to pop them in during editing.
Next job is to go in and edit them all. I really want to see if I can rescue the first couple (they were accused of being plotless by one reader) and at least give them decent endings. 'Hit me baby one more time' I'd like to submit to Shotgun Honey, but it needs a bit of tidying up, first. 'Everything changes but you' is probably the best, but isn't yet perfect. And I have another idea rattling round my head but it will have to live outside the Nasho collection.
It's been an interesting exercise. Here's to more short stories!