Deadlines, Challenges and NaNoWriMo

I was planning on doing a 30 day drawing challenge when Covid offered me an unexpected opportunity: a local sci-fi convention that usually commissions stories for a short story collection they publish each year decided to allow story submissions this year. The only catch was that the deadline was tight: two weeks.

I couldn’t give up on the opportunity, and I was looking for a way to kickstart my writing again, so I put my drawing challenge on hold and wrote a short story instead. I wrote first draft (about 4,000 words) in about four days, then polished it and sent it out to a beta reader. I got his input, fixed and rewrote some stuff and then sent it in.

Meanwhile November was approaching, and with it NaNoWriMo. Now I’m not a fan of NaNoWriMo but this short story experience as well as a great episode of the Writing Excuses podcast made me realize that:

a. I needed to get used to writing to a tight deadline.
b. I needed to get back to writing.

NaNoWriMo was a great excuse for that, even though I had no intention of holding myself to 1,667 words a day. I do plan to write everyday, and push myself as much as possible beyond my comfort zone. This became especially relevant when I got my story back from the editor with a request to rewrite large swaths of it. I had three days to rewrite and edit around 3,700 words, and it was a tough but rewarding challenge. Even if the resulting story doesn’t get published, I learned a lot from the experience, and I have a solid piece of work that I’m pretty happy with.

So what about my drawing challenge? I actually had about 5 days left on it (there were a few drawings that I made that are not something that I’m going to publish here), but I decided to extend it to 10 days, which I’ll do probably sometime in early December.

I am happy that doing 30 days of drawing instead of Inktober has provided me with an opportunity to really get to know my palette, to draw more quickly and without a preliminary pencil sketch, and to better understand what draws me to a scene and what makes it worth drawing.

I hope that 30 days of writing to a deadline will provide just as much insight, skill and experience as that.

Deadlines, Challenges and NaNoWriMo

This week’s recommendations

  • Book: The Night Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko. An urban fantasy that has restored my faith in the genre. Very Russian — melancholy, self-reflective, intelligently and subtly written — and very good. Lukyanenko takes Russian folklore and breaths new, modern life to it in a set of three interconnecting stories that have a fresh take on the concepts of good and evil.
  • Podcast: Writing Excuses. This 15 minutes long podcast is all the inspiration I need lately to get my ass into a chair and write. What more do you need? (They need a new, more modern website, but the podcast is great, trust me).
  • Tea: it’s been too hot and I’ve been too lazy to drink much of it now, except the occasional cup of Fortnum and Mason’s Assam Superb in the morning. A fabulous Assam, but still too expensive to wholeheartedly recommend.
  • Also: finally saw Wonder Woman and loved it. A fresh, nuanced take on a superhero movie that doesn’t apologize for having a female lead.

Jaffa street view
Old Jaffa record store baking in the sun

 

This week’s recommendations