Nanowrimo 2017

I’m a veteran Nanoer. I just hit an official 14 year mark with the organization. For those that don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is a challenge to write 50k in the month of November. I’ve ‘won’ it four times, but not in the last decade. Life, school, work, it’s all sort of got in the way.

So I’m determined this year. I even volunteered as Municipal Liason, which means I’m tasked with helping herd others in my local area towards the goal. And I’m realizing as I’m writing, that a LOT has changed in the last decade, in myself, my writing style, and my abilities.

Now a large part of this is down to fanfic. Over the last 4 years I’ve written almost 650,000 words. Nanowrimo has taught me to write quickly, fanfic has helped show me what I’m truly capable of.

Not that this is going to be a sterling first draft that needs no revision, of course. But I’m writing faster, and, I think, better, than I ever have. Just today I wrote 5600 words. I’m finding that in a 15 minute sprint I’m getting over 600. And for once I don’t feel like I’m rushing through a story, but neither am I malingering. I’m going at a steady pace, I have plenty of room and plot to get me to the 50k

It also helps that I finished my degree last year in Film and Media studies. Studying storytelling and screenplay has certainly honed my skills in that area, and given me more tools for my creative toolbox, whether it’s screenwriting or prose.

It’s been said that the best practice for writing it to write, and I’ve certainly been doing that. We’re only four days into the month, and I know I’m going to hit a wall at some point, but for right now I’m feeling good, and confident and I think this is going to be the year to start a brand new winning streak.

Working with Surprises and Mistakes: What the 2017 Oscars Can Teach Us

The Event

As I write this, people are still reeling and talking about what happened last night at the 2017 Oscars with the Best Picture award. The wrong envelope was handed out, the wrong movie was read, and then there was a frantic correction. It almost felt like a plot twist from a Hollywood movie; the underdog coming from behind  to take the top prize after all.

People will be talking about what went wrong and who’s fault it was for some time to come. Warren Beatty clearly felt something was wrong when he opened the envelope, Faye Dunaway just read out the movie name without looking twice. Nobody rushed out until after the people from La La Land were on the stage.

And the La La Land people were gracious. Jordan Horowitz, the producer, announced that they had not actually won and called the Moonlight people to the stage. He snatched away the card with the correct winner and showed it to the audience and cameras. He said he was happy to give the Oscar to the correct winner. And, finally, Moonlight got it’s moment and the chance to make their speeches.

What can we learn?

As we can see, mistakes can happen. Even at the biggest award show with the biggest award. Mistakes can be handled with humor and grace. Sometimes things don’t go as expected. This is true in life and well as award shows. It can also be true in our writing.

In fiction, as in real life, there are consequences for actions. If a character behaves with no consequences, then the audience will quickly grow bored. How someone reacts to a mistake can be as revealing as the mistake itself. Warren Beatty tried to explain what happened with the envelopes. Today the accounting firm in charge of the Oscars is trying to figure out what went wrong.

Oftentimes the best thing one can do is to simply acknowledge the error and move on. It can’t be undone. Life itself gives us plot twists, from time to time. Maybe crack a joke, give a smile and react with humility. The 2017 Oscars give us an example we can follow, as often the best Hollywood movies do.

Finding Niches for Your Writing

It can be hard to settle on a niche. I’ve written my entire life. My mind whirls with ideas most of the time. There are certain things I love, but with as many people who write, or want to write, it can be hard to settle on one or two things. This is where niches come in handy.

As an adjective, niches are defined as: “denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.” A niche can also be “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.” To focus on a niche is to become an expert at it.

After all, writing, like most things, is about practice. The more you write about something, be it romance or science fiction, cooking or DIY, the better you get at it. Blogging certainly counts as practice. So does freelancing and those scribbles that never see the light of day. Remember that if you never start, then you’ll never finish.

If you can find those corners where you most belong, it can make things easier. If you want to write about cooking, you start a cooking blog, or write for someone elses. Maybe you start by writing for someone else, and then create your own. No matter the niche, someone else has probably already done it.

But note that ‘someone else did it’ isn’t a good reason for you not to. Everyone brings their own spin to things. Yes there may be 500 cooking blogs on the internet; what makes yours unique? Cooking is a broad topic, maybe you focus on fast meals, or equipment or cooking for a family. That narrow focus is your niche. Everyone stumbles a bit at the beginning, and that’s okay. Where you go from there is up to you.

What niches do you think you could settle into and what unique perspective do you bring to that niche?