Five for Friday – Interview with Pleasant Street

Welcome to Five for Friday!

I’ve decided it’s time for a regular spot on my blog. So every Friday (or at least every other Friday) I will write a post.  It can be anything from 5 tips to sell your novel or 5 reasons you should eat as much cake as you can.

So to kick off my new spot I am beginning with an Interview from the lovely Pleasant Street. You can find her blog here – In My Parlour – which I love. Full of beautiful poetry and fantastic prose, take a look if you get chance, you won’t regret it.

Pleasant Street is undertaking NaNoWriMo for the third time and as you probably know, I am joining for the first time. So I asked her some questions on her experiences to help newbies like me get acquainted.

So here we go:

  1. Had you ever completed a novel before joining NaNoWriMo?

No I hadn’t.

In fact I never wrote anything longer than a poem prior to NaNoWriMo, not even a short story. I don’t think I considered it. I’ve written poetry since childhood. Much of my reading consisted of biographies and history. I usually missed the popular novels, opting to read classics.

The great thing about the classics is that many of them give you a good model for what a great novel is. I think the first year I tried it, 2013, it was more of a lark. It was a gimmick online that others were doing and it sounded fun.

Could I really do it? I had to try!

  1. Did you decide on a process before you started, i.e. a certain word count per day/write at the same time every day? Or did you develop this as you went along?

No way, I had no idea of any process at all. I had a title and a basic idea.

In 2012, I started NaNo but never even got half way. I lost that manuscript, so I started over in ’13 with the basic concept. I mean I had a goal, the goal that NaNo puts out- 50k words in 30 days, which amounts to 1667 words/day. But the writing just came naturally and organically. I had no plan other than keep the coffee pot full and write my ass off.

  1. You say that you’ve done NaNo a couple of times before. What are your reasons for coming back this year?

I’ve come back because even though now I’m writing every day, it offers an incentive to finish. There is a great feeling at the end finishing with your buddies, and of course, your own good feeling of accomplishment.

Speaking of buddies, I do visit the forums some and sometimes participate in discussions, especially the ones that involve sharing snippets of our work and getting/ giving feedback. This is enormously helpful, getting that kind of response, good or bad.

Also the folks at NaNoWriMo have v-logs on youtube, sometimes with a live feed and interaction with us, asking questions, etc. A big part of NaNo for some people are the word sprints, you can find these on twitter at @NaNoWriMo. Someone sets a time and everyone writes until the time is up and says how many words they wrote. This can be fun and exhilarating. It can also help you not to give up.

  1. Is there anything that didn’t work for you, being on such a tight schedule?

That’s a good question.  I’d say reaching back to the last question, though the social aspect of it is fun, I find too much social interaction is distracting.  If I interact with others on a daily basis, it is before I start writing, maybe a stroll through one of the discussions, reading and offering replies. Occasionally I’ll join in a word sprint on Twitter. I think the interaction is great but if I get too involved socially I don’t write as much and I lose my train of thought where I am going in the story.

  1. Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to anyone taking on NaNo for the first time?

This is a good one. My advice is this- ignore the constant criticism of NaNo and the people that want to drag it down. They have their reasons and they will tell you that it isn’t good for writing a good completed novel; it is too fast with no editing, etc.

They have some good points but even NaNo doesn’t claim that the manuscript you have after 30 days is going to be a finished novel. But you will have a first draft. Without the second-guessing and constant editing, your creativity really flows. Oh, there will be typos and you’ll want to delete some of the crap, but I find it very satisfying once a year to write like mad and form a first draft this way.

Do talk to others and see how they run it. Do they write an outline? Do they write by the seat of their pants and let the story unfold? But ultimately you should run it how it works for you, and you’ll pretty much know in the first week if it is working. Don’t worry about the naysayers. It is 30 days of your life and you’ll have 50,000+ words that did not exist before, which I think is an astounding feeling. I love that accomplishment.

Thank you so much to Pleasant Street for giving up her time to answer my questions.

I’ve found them very helpful, especially the information about the social aspect, which I knew very little about. And I have to admit, I’ve heard a lot of negative things said too and I was starting to worry whether I’d made the right decision, so it was good to put my mind at rest about these issues.

To anyone looking at joining NaNo this year, I hope you  find this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck. Maybe we’ll see each other in the forums at some point.

Thank you so much for reading and Happy Writing!

If anyone would like more information on NaNoWriMo, visit their website here.

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Make a MAP!

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Happy New Year everyone!

And what a start it’s been. I’m working on a new online magazine, writing stories, editing a book and preparing a new short story serial for publication, my head is spinning.

But in truth I’m never happier than when I’m busy. And as I have the attention span of an infant it bodes well to have a number of projects on the go at any one time.

Last year I worked and the results were mediocre at best. I had periods where it seemed I did nothing but work – completing a script with a co-writer being one of the highlights for me – but there were also times where I didn’t seem to be working at all. Instead I became some kind of sofa monster, guarding chocolate like a griffin guards treasure.

So instead of engaging in the tradition of making resolutions that I have very little hope of keeping, I decided to make a MAP. Not the drawing X’s and staining paper with tea kind – although that would have been fun, but a Massive Action Plan.

A Massive Action Plan is where you come up with your desired outcome and then list a load of ways you can achieve it.

So first I came up with my outcome;

‘Create a portfolio of work that I can be truly proud of and enjoy the process.’

Then I brainstormed as many ways I could think of that would help me achieve this outcome. Now it’s unlikely I will do them all. But if I can complete, say even a third of my list, will I have achieved my outcome?

Absolutely!

So now I have a list of roughly 35 viable things I can do this year to not only increase my output but also improve my chances of publication. This includes, sending a short story out once a month, sending out poetry that has been languishing on my hard drive since the dark ages and working on my fiirst short film.

Now what I need is a plan so I can measure my progress. A list is all well and good. But at the moment it still remains almost a wish list of what I’d like to give a go.

So I go through my list and pick out six things that I’m committed to working on for the next three months. I write them down and come up with small steps I can take towards their attainment.

For example; Make a short film.

  1. Write character Bio’s
  2. Brainstorm with co-writer and outline script.
  3. Begin working on first Scenes.

…and so on.

The more specific your steps, the better your chances of reaching your outcome.

Now I assign each step a date to be completed by. This way I can begin to measure what I’m achieving and by when. If, after two months in, I find myself behind or (in the very unlikely event), ahead. I can adapt my plan accordingly.

It doesn’t matter if my plan changes. Most of the time it does. All that matters is I have a way of measuring my success. This also reduces the chance of me getting to the end of the year and finding myself not even having started, staring at my wish list with a feeling of desperation and craving for cake.

Now I find myself two weeks into January and I’m already two thirds through my list for this month. Not only has my output exploded, but I’m building momentum.

I don’t know if this will work for anyone else, but its certainly given me the boost I needed. I would love to hear from anyone who gives this a go. Did it work? Did you follow your steps? Hopefully we can all creat our MAPS and eventully achieve the ultimate goal…

…taking over the world, (followed by best evil plan laugh!)

Good luck everybody, I hope the new year brings you adventures, opportunities and chocolate…lots and lots of chocolate!