Where is this all going? – Redefining success

I alluded in my last post what being a writer to me is.

“[…] Writers write. Being published, even read, that’s irrelevant. Writers write. That’s the only thing that defines a writer.”

In that sense I’m quite successful, I can and do write. That’s more of an epiphany than you might think, I called my blog Aspiring because I thought I was an aspiring writer, a nascent storyteller, yet still not on the mark, however that’s not the truth. I might be trying to learn to be better at writing, but that’s irrelevant. I write, therefore I’m a writer.

What I really am is an aspiring author. I’m trying to hone my craft to the level I feel comfortable sharing my works, with little or no qualification. That’s not as easy as it sounds, I’m highly self critical. To accept something I’ve written to be good enough to publish to the world, (whether that’s through this blog, through self publishing ebooks, or through submitting to publishers), is no small feat. I have done it, like with the sci fi serial I posted for a while, (and since taken down because I wasn’t happy with it), and the daily flash fiction challenge I did, (albeit with lots of qualifiers about quality and haste, all 140+ short stories are still there – so that’s something, right?).

I’ve decided I want to take this seriously though. I want to leave my mark in one fashion or another, and there’s one thing that I’m good enough that has the chance of being indelible, and that’s writing. What I do at work is transient, it’s replaced by the next big thing pretty much monthly, I don’t have any particular insights into my job that would like to a new methodology being named for me. It’s not modesty, because I do some amazing stuff. Now writing, I don’t know if I’d ever be good enough to be remembered beyond myself, but there’s a greater chance of it.

Millions of stories, books, every year get forgotten about. It’s actually kind of sad when you think about it. However thousands will be remembered by people, thousands will affect lives, and some of those will go on and be read and remembered by future generations.

When you read Jane Austen, HG Wells, Frank Herbery, Tolkien, DH Lawrence, even things like Beowulf, you’re contributing to the immortality of not just the characters, but the writers. And I find that tremendously exciting, to be connected with these fantastic talents across the bridge of years. So of course, I’d like to try my hand at that – not that I’m saying I can, but I am saying I can try. It requires refocusing myself, and really aspiring. All I’m saying is it’s possible, it’s exciting, and it’s worthwhile.

Even if I somehow miss, (and I won’t know that until the day I give up writing stories), I’ll still have all the fun of crafting my stories into words.

So there’s a few milestones I need to get past on the way, which I’m going to explore over several posts. Here’s a few key ones that I need to do for this year’s NaNoWriMo:

  • A good story idea (and all the elements that implies like interesting characters, a compelling arc, fascinating sub-plots, etc)
  • Clear writing, (no needlessly using overcomplicated or antiquated words – I’m not trying to win over critics, I’m trying to win over as many readers as I am capable of)
  • Focusing as much time, (or indeed more), on my second draft as the first draft
  • Pure dedication to the art of editing, and re-editing, (ad inifinitum), until the story is finely honed. Then I’ll consider having a third party take it further.
  • Promotion of my self and my novel, which is a bit of a tough one because I’ve no idea where to start, but I’ll cross that bridge once I know I’ve got a story I want to push that far.
  • The right vehicle from myself to my readers, (whether it’s publishing to my blog, to ebook stores, or whatever – whichever is right for the novel)

So if that’s my challenge, when am I going to do it? When else? NaNoWriMo. My goal of this NaNoWriMo is a complete first draft of a novel. I think I’ll aim for the 200k mark, assuming I’ll lose half in editing and re-editing, that should leave me with a reasonable sized novel.

To do that I’m going to have to be prepared, so this will be another planning year. That gives me 66 days to get ready. This week I’ll filter my ideas down to just a couple and then make my final decision, and dedicate myself to two months of detailed plans. Characters, scenes, plots all detailed ready to be pulled together into a story.

This year, (well next by time I’ve finished finishing) editing and such), will be the year I finally make an attempt at doing something with my writing, if I’ve got something that warrants it, that is, if not I’ll immediately start a new project. The first draft and first round of editing will be completed before moving onto another project – because anything less would be defeatist, than realistically evaluating what I’ve written.

It doesn’t do to preface a challenge with failure, but what’s the worst that can happen? If I don’t succeed, if I don’t have millions of people feverishly pouring over my words, I’ll still be a writer, and I’ll still be enjoying writing. This is merely another level hopefully.

Pre-NaNoWriMo 2013 Update

So, NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us, just days to go.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit it in later in the month. There’s a lot going on in my life, in most aspects of my life in fact.

Problem is, I need to keep challenges tough. In fact they need to be borderline unbeatable. That pressure I’ve found is absolutely necessary for me to win. Once 50,000 words was too much, now 100,000 looks easy. 150,000 should be doable, and 200,000 falls into the possible if I try hard category. Now, I know, or at least suspect that the level of effort I can put in is curtailed as I mentioned. So, I’ve thought really hard about how to challenge myself. Tiered targets, one of which is definitely borderline achievable, then the others taper off allowing for the shifting sands of fate upon my writing time.
Challenge 1) the most daunting, and potentially silly. Partly because I’m doing it to see if can beat someone, partly because even I don’t think it’s possible. The challenge is a day one win. 50,000 before midnight on first.

To make it easier, I have however booked the day of work, I’ll be going to bed early, and rising just in time for the 1st of November to officially start in the UK. I’ll probably have a 9am nap. It’s all perfectly possible if you get a strong start, and I’m sure knowing where I need to take those first 50,000 words will help.

Challenge 2) nice and simple, with two weekend days, but work on all the others, another 50,000 words by the end of the following 7 days.

Challenge 3) a final 50,000 by the 30th November.

All challenges are exclusive, so challenge 2 is 50,000 regardless of how many I manage to achieve in challenge 1,and challenge 3 is always 50,000 regardless of what I achieve in previous two tasks.

These are just word count challenges, I’ll find and/or steal challenges along the way, to keep it interesting and fun.

So now I’m done bragging about the size of my target, I should probably discuss something practical. I want to cover off preparation separately, and then there’s technology (a favourite post of mine), and I’d like to discuss what I’m planning to write. No, a far more urgent, (well brief and unimportant), is what I’ll do with my blog during this time.

I won’t be posting everyday, because I need to write fiction, not blogs, and a post every day would basically amount to “Woohoo, x thousand words!” or, alternatively, “Boohoo! X hundred or less words, this sucks!” Neither of which are that much fun, daily. A post the day after the challenges are due sounds fine for word counts, and self aggrandising.

If I post at other times, I’d like to focus on challenges I’ve faced in trying to achieve those targets, lessons learned, funny story, excerpts from the #nanoyorks chat room, because the people there, (the rare troll aside), are so fabulous and great. (Yes, I’m sucking up, but I’m not around much this year so have to do something to keep them liking me).

Right I should get back to planning, have a lovely climate controlled hotel room, no distractions for a few hours, and lovely tea. What more can a writer want for?

To anyone, and everyone taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo, I wish you all the best, and good luck.

The Road to NaNoWriMo 2013

It’s that time again, when many writers put their heads above the parapet of their day to day fertile scribblings, (or piles of blank paper, depending on how their proverbial muse has been treating them), because right around the corner is NaNoWriMo.

Sixty-six days until the madness begins again.

In case you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo before, it’s the National Novel Writing Month, (albeit it is now very much an international festival of writing). The goal through the thirty days of November is to write a fifty thousand word novel. How, and what are upto you.

I’ve done it several times, and I’m on a chain of wins, which I hope to maintain. Every year I set myself a bigger and bigger challenge. This year I’m doing the same one hundred and fifty thousand words – but the first fifty I’m going to aim to finish in three days. To put that in context, last year it was day ten when I hit 50k,the year before day 13. The harder a challenge I set myself the better I do – regardless of whether I ultimately complete the challenge, I will do more than enough to be proud of.

I’m not sure what I’ll write just yet, I have some great ideas I’ve previously mentioned, but I’ve either been working on them too much, or the idea turned out not to be as writable as I first imagined.

I may not have an idea for a story specifically, but I have some thoughts on style – basically I want to try my hand at a multi generational story, following three generations of the same family. If I go with science fiction then it will be based on a colony somewhere, and be quite western inspired, but I could go fantasy and set it in a world where a cataclysm is happening, has happened, or is fated to happen. I like both ideas to be honest – but I’ve not fleshed either of them out.

Cue mind mapping, and copious research. I may go with neither and do something else entirely, but that’s where I am right now. That’s the joy of the road to NaNoWriMo, getting ready for it… And potentially trashing all the plans and doing something else entirely come November the first when it begins.

What is great literature?

An interesting question, one for which every aspiring writer, and most if not all published authors would give their leg, and any other body part, or parts, that wouldn’t impede their writing, to know the answer to, “What truly is a great piece of writing?”

When I say ‘great’, I mean the kind of writing that is remembered as being up there, and out there, that historically will stand the test of time and will forever earn plaudits.

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