Trust30 – Motivation for a month to get yourself writing

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Who are you, and what do you want to say?

Do you even know?

Finding your own voice and using it in a crowded room is always difficult, but it’s become even tougher with the immense access to ideas and silliness the internet permits. Strong and creative ideas can easily give way to self-doubt, conformity, and endless revisions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson railed against this trap long before blogs, Facebook, and Twitter turned on their torrents of opinions and information. He knew the value of the individual and their unique voice. In his recently republished essay, Self-Reliance, his fierce argument against consistency and conformity is set against quotes and ideas from Pam Slim to Theodore Roosevelt. Take action, Emerson says. YOUR action.

Building on this, the Domino Project has launched a month long effort to get people moving that they call Trust30. Similar in some ways to National Novel Writing Month, the idea is to move away from self-censoring and to write something fresh and new for 30 consecutive days. Every day you will receive some motivation in email to keep you inspired and moving.

If you’re feeling stuck, or having trouble finding your own voice in your own work and life, take this challenge. It costs nothing but your time and brain cells. At the end you’ll have new habits, new ideas, and hopefully some new momentum that will take you the places only you can go.

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Tempus Fugit

Time flies, baby!  It’s hard to believe but it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again.  This is your call to arms…or pens…or probably PC’s…whatever, you get the idea.  Now is the time to do it.  Now is the time to put aside procrastination, self-doubt, and realistic expectations.  Don’t think about it, just sign up and do it.  It’s only fifty thousand words in one month.  If that sounds scary it shouldn’t.  It doesn’t have to be good or even coherent really.  This is the no-more-excuses event so I don’t really want to hear any excuses.  And even though I’m not exactly a veteran (I’ve done one ScriptFrenzy and one NaNo) I’m going to presume to give some advice.

1.  Do it.  This falls under the ‘I don’t want to hear your excuses’ category.  I’m a worse procrastinator than most and I’m doin’ it.

2.  Don’t over think it. If you have an outline or a plot figured out that’s fine.  If you don’t that’s fine too.  Personally, I look at this as more of an opportunity for pure storytelling.  Speed and word count are the aims, not polish and finesse.  Now’s the time to play fast and loose.  Let the story go wherever you, or it, wants instead of trying to stay on track with outlines.

3.  Don’t get behind. You’re gonna get behind anyway but I thought I’d give the advice.  Try your damnedest to make the daily word count.  If it’s going well try to get ahead.  If you do get ahead resist the temptation to coast, or worse, skip a day.  Word count is the boss of you.

4.  Don’t worry about finishing. Number 3 being said, don’t rend your garments or anything if it looks like you’re not going to make it.  Fifty thousand is the goal but for a finished novel it’s probably a little light anyway.  This is almost like a supercharged free writing exercise.  You’re getting words on paper, you’re getting an honest draft, you’re getting that story idea out.  What you’re probably not getting, even if you finish is a complete novel.  The idea is to reach the goal and keep going but if you only hit twenty thousand…hey, it’s twenty thousand you wouldn’t have had if you skipped NaNo.

5.  Have fun. Remember the fast and loose of number 2?  This is the rush of storytelling.  That crazy first draft when you can’t believe you’re actually writing a novel.  Many of you know the rush I’m talking about.  If you have never written anything for fun trust me, you’re missing out.  The whole NaNoWriMo site is geared toward making writing accesible to anyone who wants to do it for the sheer fun of it.  The last time I did it was some of the most enjoyable writing I’ve ever done.

Are you in?

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Character Names – Random, Plentiful and Believable

What do the following character names have in common?

Maria Archer
Hollis Rivers
Ester Stringer
Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI

OK, so that last one doesn’t really fit with my topic, but all of these started out the day in my email spam folder.  I have been harvesting character names from this source for quite some time.  The names gathered in this fashion satisfy three of my basic requirements for stock character names: they are random, they are plentiful and they are believable.

For main characters, names are often chosen to signify some aspect of the character, but for the rest of the characters that inhabit a story’s world, I usually find that I would prefer not to have any additional baggage come along for the ride.  Even if you, as the writer, simulate a random sampling for your names, you will more than likely subconciously return to the same names again and again.  True randomness should be free from control and nothing says out of control like the typical spam folder.  As far as plentiful, I usually receive a couple dozen spam emails per day and at least half of them have proper names in the from address.

Which brings us to the last requirement: believability.  Spam emails, by their very nature are designed to get the recipient to open them.  One way that this is accomplished is by making it appear as though the email is coming from somebody that the recipient knows or thinks they might know.  Now, sometimes the spammers go off the rails and send out some truly whacky combinations.  These can be great when you are featuring a unique character that really needs a unique name to match.

I know there are plenty of character name generators available on the internet, but with this technique, you don’t have to go out of your way to find a name.  A quick scan of your spam folder should provide a usable name, allowing you to stay in the writing groove.

And speaking of main characters and the careful crafting of their names, I have a funny story to relate.  A couple of years back, I was working on a NaNoWriMo novel and chose the name Crash Bandicoot for my protagonist (not from the spam folder, mind you).  I meant to go back and “fix” his name, but after a dozen pages, it just kind of stuck, especially when another character kept referring to him as “Crashy”.

The Triumphant Return of The Loser

This Sunday I finished my NaNoWriMo story.  Those familiar with NaNo know that it takes place in November and is a race to get fifty thousand words done.  In a month.  Those familiar with calendars will notice that this is, in fact December.  I didn’t finish in a month.  I didn’t get 50k either, I finished the story with just over thirty thousand words.  In other words, I’m a loser.  I’m not bummed about it though.  In fact I’m downright cheerful for a few reasons.

It was fun:  There’s something about the way this event is set up that takes the usual pressures of writing away for me.  It’s paradoxical since saying it out loud- ‘I have thirty days to write a fifty thousand word novel’-sounds crazy and unachievable.  It should add pressure.  But the very fact that you’re unlikely to make it means you might as well just have fun trying.  Enjoy the looks people give you when you tell them what you’re doing.

The story was fun:  There’s nothing wrong with writing serious, meaningful, literature.  It’s nice to think your work might have a deep resonance with people.  Get them to think about themes and issues you yourself find important.  But I have to tell you, just writing a story for the sake of telling a story is a hell of a lot of fun.  I went into NaNo with no real idea what I was going to write about.  In fact the first day I didn’t write at all.  I was still thinking about the story.  What I ended up doing was coming up with a simple ‘what if idea’–what if a zombie movie took place in the Old West?  for a situation.  I came up with a quick scene setting based on that situation–strangers travelling in a stage coach.  Then I filled the stage with stock characters and called ‘action’.  There’s nothing serious or deep in it but man it was fun.

It was surprising:  The frenzied pace you set yourself makes some interesting things happen.  I don’t know how many of those things are good and how many bad, that’s what the rewrite’s for, but at least they aren’t boring.  Possible bad things were–lots of adverbial description, not always bad but tends to be weak–weird tone shifts, and genre shifts for that matter–lots and lots of typos.  Possible good things–the pace of writing seems to make for a fast paced story–characters do stuff for you, with no time to flesh out your characters’ deep seated motives they just do stuff.  It’s like actors working improv instead of rehearsed.  Except for a couple of guys that were zombie bait, none of my characters ended up exactly where I thought they would.  That’s pretty thrilling.

It’s doable:  Even though I didn’t make it, plenty of people did.  When you break it down it’s less than 2000 words a day.  In fact it’s 1666.66etc.  words a day.  That’s a pretty stout chunk of writing if you have a job or family or whatever else keeps you from writing.  But you have to get that every day and if you fall behind the word count for the next day grows and having a real and external deadline does feel different from one you set yourself.  It is doable though and if you’re at all serious about writing you should be doing it every day anyway.

So, I’m a happy loser.  I got a little break from other stuff I was working on.  I upped my daily word count.  I finished a story.  It’s all good.  I can’t say enough about just jumping in if you want to write.  Jump in with over-the-top and unwarranted optimism.  You don’t have to wait for next November either.  Get together with some other writers and make the same commitment.  January is popular for new ventures.  JaNoWriMo!  Just get at it.

Running Scared For a Running Start.

Crap!  It’s almost November.  That means National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for us hipster doofuses.  I am not done with my current project (also a novel) but I’m going in anyway.  Screw it!  This event is about getting the damn words on paper.  Well, on the computer screen but whatever.  I’m not waiting until next year and neither should you.  I won’t be prepared but that won’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you, either.  What did prepared ever get anybody anyway?  Nothing that’s what.  Just write a novel.  In a month.  Don’t worry about your story arc or an outline either.  You won’t really have time for that.  You will need a basic idea but it doesn’t have to be much.  “Two friends are plumbers by day, paranormal investigators by night”.  Okay, that’s GhostHunters on SciFi so it’s taken but maybe there’s a twist–“Two friends are paranormal investigators by day, and plumbers by night“.  Scary.  Anyway if you don’t have an idea a situation will do.  No whining.  No excuses.  Now’s your chance.  Have some fun with it while you’re at it.  I’m pulling for you.  Check out and get crackin.