Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Posts Tagged ‘creative writing

How Writing is Like Knitting

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Last week I started the incredibly daunting task of editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It doesn’t have a title yet. In fact, it probably won’t until I’m forced to give it one. I’m not good at titles. I started it in November, for NaNoWriMo, of course, and finished the first draft on January 28th. I told myself I’d give myself a little break before starting the editing, and boy did I ever. I’m not going to beat myself up about that, though, because I have stayed true to my goal of writing every day, in some form. I worked on some other projects.

The longer I waited to edit the novel, though, the scarier it got. I thought about all the work left to do and all of the changes I already know I need to make. I thought about how this rough draft is really just a skeleton of what I envision the book eventually being. I thought about how I changed a big part of the premise in the end, so that I have to rewrite things in the beginning so it all makes sense. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m trying not to let it get to me. I need to finish this thing. So I sat down and started applying post-its to my binder.

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That is a picture of the front section of the binder. On the left are notes to myself about things I need to address in the novel as a whole, and on the right are the notes about that section in particular. The picture was taken in the middle of a 2 hour chunk of work time, and those sections have been filled with notes since. Each one of those notes represents a lot of work, and it’s difficult to know where to start.

To quell my anxiety towards the hugeness of my task, I have reminded myself that writing a novel is like knitting in some ways. If I am knitting a pair of socks, I don’t expect to finish the pair, or even one sock, in an hour or two. In fact, if I only get a couple of inches knitted in an hour, that is to be expected. The socks get finished because of all of the hours, and all of the inches, that get added up until the sock gets finished. The fact that I sit down and knit for a little while, every day, is what gets me socks to wear. In the same way, I must sit down and write, every day, and it will eventually all add up to a finished novel.

It will, however, probably take a lot longer than a pair of socks. So maybe I should have compared it to a sweater, or a shawl. Here is a picture of the socks I started in mid-February. They were my London knitting.

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Written by nikkinbird

March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Life after NaNoWriMo: Ready to Revise

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Ready to Revise

We stopped at Target yesterday for some other stuff, and I just had to stop in the notebook aisle (I always have to stop in the notebook aisle). I had a mission other than browsing, though. I purchased a binder and some post-it notes, and now I am ready to revise! Well, I’m not actually ready in a writing sense. But I have the stuff for it! Awhile back, I read Rachael Herron’s blog post about revising, and I liked the idea of the post-it method for keeping track of stuff as you revise. Now that I’m so close to the end of my novel, I’m itching to print it out, 3-hole punch it, and stuff it in a binder to start paging through! I love having Scrivener, but I need physical copies of things when I really need to get down to work. I don’t know what it is, but being able to physically flip pages, whether it’s a textbook or a piece of writing, helps me to visualize things better. I am looking forward to this phase so much that buying the binder and post-its is like a little extra incentive to keep going and finish the novel. I have a problem, though. It has to do with my process during NaNoWriMo.

My NaNoWriMo Process

I never plan ahead for NaNoWriMo. At least not on paper. I usually get some sort of vague ideas, maybe scribble down a few brainstorms, but I don’t outline or anything. I’m not really an outliner anyway, but it could help me if I did tried it. More than usual, NaNoWriMo snuck up on me this year. In October, I was in the middle of singlehandedly starting up an afterschool program that was brand new to our school. I had to recruit and train volunteers, organize all of the classes, promote them at conferences (in which I sat at a table until 8pm 3 different nights and nobody came), organize all the signups, send home signup confirmations, find out how to deposit and then access money gotten from donations to my little startup program, and so on. Since one of my afterschool classes was NaNoWriMo, and I was teaching it, I couldn’t let all this being busy stuff let me off the hook for NaNo. So, when November rolled around, I had already had a couple of prepping for NaNo classes with my two groups of kids.

They may have been ready, but I wasn’t. So, my “novel” during November, or my “word count” as I should probably call it instead, ended up consisting of a lot of brainstorming, freewriting sessions about the story, and not so much scenes from the story itself. I’d say maybe a good solid half of my wordcount was actual narrative text, and the rest was character sketches, settings sketches, and just me talking to myself in general about what my story was about. Planning stuff. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if I were to do all of that kind of writing BEFORE November, then I would probably get a whole lot more actual novel written by the end of November.

What this all means is that, while my novel is definitely going somewhere now, and knows a little bit more about what it wants to be, it didn’t know that in the beginning. The beginning has gaping plot holes, scenes that haven’t been written, and characters who have changed gender, geographic location, circumstances, and motivation. The type of magic my world uses has evolved and developed its own set of rules that I now have to go back and make sure it follows. It’s supposed to have been winter for half of the book but I keep forgetting to describe scenes as if there’s snow on the ground, breath freezing in the air, or any hint that my characters get cold when they go outside. Maybe that’s just a symptom of our own practically snowless winter up here in Duluth, where we’re normally buried this time of year.

So, revising is going to be a whole lot of fun. I say this with the sincerest of smiles, I assure you. Still, as soon as I write that final scene, I’m considering the rough draft all roughed out for now. I’m going to print it out and slap it in that binder, then worry about the fixups. I may take a break and write a short story. They say it’s good to do that. Take a break between the rough draft and revising, I mean.

And while I worry about that, Tashi has occupied my sweater.
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Creative writing, jewelry, and clay.

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Today I signed up for a creative writing class through Minneapolis Community Education. We get to take Community Ed classes for free in our AmeriCorps program, which is so nice! I’m hoping that signing up for this class will give me the boost I need to get myself writing regularly. NaNoWriMo in November was good, and I swore that after that I would keep up a regular writing habit, but other things always seem to push it out of the way. I do have to admit that I’m a little nervous for the class. I get nervous sharing my writing with people, or self-conscious, and it wasn’t until my last semester of college that I actually took a creative writing workshop class. Then, I discovered that it wasn’t really that bad. In fact, it was awesome! It motivated me to write and I got lots of great feedback, as well as getting to read other people’s stories, too.

I really like the after school aspect of our AmeriCorps service. At our site, it’s been mostly self-designed. So, each of us in our cluster have gotten to make up our own classes and teach them, with a few exceptions. This session I’m co-leading Jewelry Making for 3rd-5th graders, and so far it’s been great. I got a big bin of assorted plastic beads from Michael’s for today’s class, thinking they were pretty tacky, but maybe the kids would still like them. Well, the kids loved them. And some of them were pretty cute, like dolphin shaped, whales, dogs, flowers, and such. We’ve also been doing friendship bracelets with the kids who are interested. Mostly, the 5th graders have the patience for the friendship bracelets, and the 3rd graders just like to string beads.

The other class I have is “Play with Clay,” which I teach by myself (eek!), with a group of 15 kindergarten-2nd graders. Though I had doubts about my chances of success with the combination of the subject matter and the age range, I felt like I did pretty good the first day of class last week. I want to tell myself that it’s because I’m getting better at managing kids, but things could always go horribly tomorrow! Anyway, my solution has been to over plan. Tomorrow, we are making pinch-bowls out of air-drying clay, and then we will paint them next week. I have already worked out an elaborate system of drawing names for helpers to help lay down newspaper and other tasks. My other secret to a stress-free class is to start cleanup 25 minutes before they have to go to the bus, then have them color until it’s time to go. Every class, my supply of colored pencils gets smaller and uglier-colored. Hmm, how does that happen?

Though stressful at times, I really think after school classes are enriching for me as much as for the kids. Sometimes, as an adult, I forget how fun it can be just to craft for the fun of it, not worrying about perfection or the usefulness of the finished item. Sharing that with the kids and seeing their creativity is a great reward for all the effort.

Written by nikkinbird

January 21, 2010 at 3:54 am

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