10 Lessons I Learned From NaNoWriMo and Daily Vlogging

I’m not sure when I first heard of NaNoWriMo, but when I did, I knew at some point I would be participating in it. Additionally, when I started my YouTube channel, I knew that eventually, I would end up daily vlogging, if just for a short time. In classic Elliot Chan fashion, I decided to kill two birds and attack both marathon projects at the same time.

This is what happened:

 

Now that it’s over, I am both relieved and exhausted, but with what little energy I have at the moment, let’s reflect on the experience. Here are the 10 things I learned from doing NaNoWriMo and Daily Vlogging at the same time:

1. YouTube Gave My Videos A Chance… But Didn’t Change My Life

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 12.52.35 PM

My YouTube impressions

The first few days of my daily vlog, I thought I was going to go viral. I literally did! I thought my channel was going to explode. I got excited. After all, I got more subscribers in the first week of NaNoWriMo/daily vlog, than I got the past 5 months of producing my ultra niche experimental writing content. This was huge — except it wasn’t.

YouTube’s impression plummeted during the second week, then rose again during the weekend and then dropped again. More research is needed, but it was interesting seeing my content get a solid chance at the start… perhaps when the NaNoWriMo interest was at the highest.

2. Viewers Have Been SO Supportive

I was genuinely surprised by all the support I got from my viewers. As someone who is new to YouTube and the NaNoWriMo community, I thought I was going to get a lot of people correcting me or telling me how to write or that I’m not focusing on the right things by vlogging, and on and on. I got none of that.

Just a Movember request from my buddy Sean *sigh* you can’t please everyone:

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.10.48 PM

If you’re worried about trolls, I say don’t, in general most people are kind — or at least they mean no malice.

3. Outlining Was Helpful at the Beginning and End But Not in the Middle

I couldn’t imagine doing this tandem project without an outline. I tried to at first… but with limited time in my day, I couldn’t allow myself to sit there for even 5 minutes and get inspired.

I needed to attack the page and an outline helped me do that. However, once I got going, I veered away from my outline. Not too far, but enough that I dilly-dallied on a few scenes or on a plot point that I wasn’t anticipating.

As I rounded the corner on the last week, I realized the importance of finishing (at least knowing where I would finish). I created another outline, this time from the ¾ point of the novel. This gave me the direction and momentum to wrap up my novel (which to my chagrin, is still unfinished).

 

 

4. Something’s Gotta Give — Not Everything, Just Something

At first, I was like, “I’m going to drop everything to do NaNoWriMo and daily vlog.” Then I realized that that would be a) unrealistic b) make for a really boring vlog.

I strategically drop stuff that took away my time from writing and were not interesting to film. So watching sports and tv shows were the first to be dropped from my schedule. Nothing eats up more time in my life than simply sitting and watching tv.

The other thing I had to drop, unfortunately, was cooking food for myself. I had a lot of precooked Costco meals in November because cooking is time-consuming and I’m not great at it. It would be an uninteresting repetitive chore that I didn’t need in my life at this time.

What I didn’t drop was seeing my friends. As much as I wanted to hit my word count goal, I realized that my vlog is an opportunity to capture my time with the people in my life. I tried to say “Yes” to invites, knowing that this project was more than simply writing and video creation. It’s something nice for me to look back on.

5. People Will Make It Seem Harder Than It Is

Every time I bring up my tandem project, people will ask me why I’m doing it. There’s a tinge of “Do you really want attention that bad?” in their tone.

Why do people run marathons? It is a challenge. People who run marathons aren’t trying to impress everyone else. They are doing it for themselves. Many will constantly say things like, “I can NEVER do that!” As if what other people are doing is that hard. It isn’t. It’s committing to something for a month. I understand, what I’m doing is not for everyone, but I’m confident that anyone who wants to do it, CAN.

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 9.16.00 PM
6. It Feels So Good to Get It Done Each Day

Every morning this November I woke up with a goal: to write and to upload. If I do those two things, it was a great day!

I had 30 great days in November.

Sure, there were many shitty moments during the month, but the end goal was always achieved. If you want a reason to pat yourself on the back, be consistent with something every day. It doesn’t have to be a hard thing, it can be super easy.

Write a paragraph every day. That’s SOOO achievable. Not every day did I write 5,000 words. Few days I wrote less than 500 and was done. But there were days where I wrote over 5,000. It doesn’t matter how much I did, it evens out eventually, but what matters is that I keep doing it.

 

7. Waking Up Early Didn’t Work

This project was not all successes. Over the 30 days, I was hoping to develop the habit of waking up 1 hour earlier than usual. In theory, that hour would be spent writing or some other productive pursuit. This would be incredibly useful during the week, as I have 9.5 hour days at the office. 1 hour would make a huge difference. I had a few wins here and there, but consistent I was not. This was not the way I will get an extra hour to write so I will have to find that extra hour somewhere else… 

 

8. Developed A Daily Plan

Every day, I knew exactly where I was going to be, who I was going to meet up with, and when I was going to write and edit my video. In another word, my day was structured. This was not what daily vlogging was meant for, but it was the only way I could get through it. I used my daily vlog as a breakdown for my day. Then I went through my day and got b-roll footage. The b-rolls became the little snapshots of my life.

At the very beginning of the project, I said that this will not be a writing project or a video creation project, but rather a time management project. This is how I approached it. If I wanted to have a video uploaded at the end of the day, I need to know where I will be having dinner that night. If at a restaurant, I’ll need to edit beforehand. If at home, I’ll edit while my Costco food heated up in the oven. Thrilling behind the scenes details here.

 

9. Don’t Overthink It, But Don’t Ramble

My least favourite part of this whole project was pointing the camera on myself and speaking. I hate it because, I feel that I’m bad at it, so I get in my head and psych myself out. This happens every day. I continuously psych myself out until I do it… then I feel relieved for about 24 hours.

I also wanted to challenge myself and do at least one episode a week in public. I did 8 out of 30 in public with strange normal people around. This increased my nervousness by another 30-40%.

The more I practiced the less I psyched myself out. It became routine. I didn’t overthink it the same way I don’t overthink speaking up at a meeting at work when I had something to say. I’m am just myself talking.

However, I learned that it’s better to pause and say nothing and to think at times, even when the camera is rolling. A common annoying habit I noticed was that I kept repeating myself just so I can keep talking, keeping the action going. I rambled when I can just take a moment to breathe, refocus and continue with a new thought.

 

 

10. Vancouver’s Weather Is Weird (I knew this all along)

I always knew Vancouver is a city where it can be raining in the morning, sunny in the afternoon and storming at night.

I didn’t know that in addition to documenting my writing and day-to-day life, I was also documenting the city I live in. I love that. I didn’t want to display the city I lived in, because I was initially wary about privacy, but over time I realized that the city was as much a part of my life as the people and the story I was writing. Seeing my mood coincided with the weather was either a juxtaposition or representation of what was happening. It brought an element to my life I wasn’t expecting to capture.

 

Now, I’m certain I learned more than 10 things from this project, and over time, I’m sure the lessons will materialize. While many things can be taught, commitment cannot. You cannot learn to commit to something from reading a book or watching someone else. Commitment is something you need to practice. That is what this project allowed me to do — practice.

 

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo, now what do you do with your draft? Click here to find out. 

Advertisements

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari: Read it if you’re world building

Earlier this year, I downloaded an audiobook: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind — thinking it’ll be an educational listen and nothing more. Yet, as I started to get through it, I realized that there was a connection between what I was hearing and what I was creating.

While working on my novel, I’m creating culture, religion, laws, languages, etc. just like humanity at the dawn of time. Sitting there on the couch one night, I had an epiphany.

When world building there is no better template than the place we are already residing in. The number one take away I got from the book by Yuval Noah Harari is that so much of human society is through imagined constructs and stories.

From religion, culture, currency, government, social hierarchy, gender equality, and so on, all these are examples of life we consider to be tangible, but it isn’t… it’s a set of beliefs and it can be modified. And while you can certainly set off to change these aspects in real life, I first encourage you to take those elements and use them as a springboard to invent your own world.

If you are interested in reading Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, here is an affiliate link to Audible: https://amzn.to/2yJxUBo

Too Many Main Characters: 3 Tips to Fix Your Story

In the first draft of your story, it’s not uncommon to introduce too many characters, especially too many main characters. That is exactly what I did in mine.

I wanted to write an epic story after all, and you can’t do that (you can) without having multiple combating characters your readers can root for.

While you can have different independent plot lines and protagonists, what you need to do is make sure that the way you organize your story, where you choose to transition from one character’s point of view to the next, is clear and purposeful in moving the entire story along and driving the characters’ arches. Without clear organization and thoughtful transitions, the story can end up being fragmented and convoluted.

Although it may still be a great story, it wouldn’t achieve its full potential.

In this video, I offer a few tips to help you manage the different protagonists so your story can be read and enjoyed smoothly.

  1. Have one POV character per scene or chapter
  2. Make sure readers know which character they are following ASAP
  3. When all characters are together, pick an ultimate main character, the one with most scenes

Word of the video: “Dinkus” (noun): three consecutive asterisks or ***

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

How to Invent Your Own Measurement When World Building

Weight, volume, speed, and time: there are many aspects of daily life that we have to measure in order to function and communicate with those around us.

An agreed-upon unit of measurement is essential in society, and the way we measure things says a lot about our culture. It’s only natural that when we start writing and world building, we feel encouraged to invent our own type of measurements to create a more unique society. It’s much like creating a new language.

The thing is, in order to have an immersive world, we need to understand how different units of measurements are invented. We can do this by learning about the history of some units of measurements.

In this video, I take a quick leap back in time to get some inspirations… and then I take a crack at explaining the ones I created in my epic novel. I hope this video can show you what works and what doesn’t work when inventing units of measurements.

Have fun!

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019

As a writer, there is no better way to support a literary magazine and the writing community than to submit your work into a contest.

Writing contests are also a great way to get you focused on completing a piece of work to the quality where you get that little spark of hope that maybe (just maybe) it’s good enough to win, be published — and earn you some sweet sweet spending money.

Looking ahead to 2019 (OMG! Can you believe it’s already the end of another year?), I’m planning to return to my tenacious roots of accumulating rejection letters.

Winning a contest is a big deal because in a world where the hardest part about being a writer is being read. Having a revered peer not only read your work but regard it as worthwhile is something nobody can ever take away from you. That being said, it’s always just someone’s opinion, so whatever, right? The important thing is loving the process, not the accolades. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have some motivation.

So here is my challenge: enter as many contests as I can in 2019. I hope you will join me in this endeavour. Maybe I shouldn’t encourage you since you will end up being my competition. Either way, that’s not the point. The point is to write more, improve as a writer and yadda yadda. Good luck!!  

Here are 10 Canadian Writing Contests in 2019 (in order of deadline):

The Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction

Prize:

  • $1,500 grand prize
  • $600 runner-up
  • $400 2nd runner-up

Deadline: January 15, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CDN
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45

Max Length: 6000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Let Down Your Hair Contest

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1000
  • Second prize: $150.
  • Publication in an upcoming issue of EVENT
  • All entries will be considered for publication

Deadline: January 20, 2019

Entry Fee: $32.95

Max Length: 1,800 words

More details at Event

 

CBC Literary Prizes – Nonfiction

Prize:

  • Grand Prize: $6,000, publication in CBC Books, and a two-week residency at The Banff Centre
  • 4 finalists: $1,000 each

Deadline: February 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $25.00 (taxes included)

Length: 2,000 words

More details at CBC

 

The Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest

Prize: $1000

Deadline: March 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40

Length: No word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction

Prize: $1,000 (CAD)

Deadline: May 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $25 CAD
  • USA: $30 US
  • International: $35 US

Length: 3,500 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

The Grouse Grind Lit Prize for V. Short Forms

Deadline: May 15th, 2019

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $500
  • Runner-up: $150
  • Second runner-up: $50

Entry Fee: $15

Length: 300 words

More details at PRISM international

 

The Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award

Prize: $1000 and a one-year Duotrope Gift Certificate ($50 USD value)

Deadline: May 28, 2019

Entry Fee: $40 

Length: no word limit

More details at The New Quarterly

 

Room Creative Non-fiction Contest

Prize:

  • First prize: $500 and publication in print
  • Second prize: $250 and publication in print
  • Honourable mention: $50 and publication online

Deadline: June 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $42 USD

Length: 3,500 words

Note: Open to women, trans, two-spirited, and genderqueer people.

More details at Room Magazine

 

Prism CREATIVE NON-FICTION CONTEST

Prize:

  • Grand prize: $1,500
  • Runner-up: $600
  • Second Runner-up: $400

Deadline: July 31, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 6,000 words

More details at PRISM international

 

Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize

Prize: $1,000

Deadline: Aug 1, 2019

Entry Fee:

  • Canadian: $35 CAD
  • USA: $40 USD
  • International: $45 USD

Length: 2,000 and 3,000 words

More details at Malahat Review

 

Bonus:

Here are some notable writing contests that haven’t posted their set 2019 deadline yet. I will keep you posted when those are up.

Annual Lush Triumphant Literary Awards – Contest Opens Jan 2019

More details at Subterrain

Short Grain Contest – Contest takes from Jan-April

More details at Grain

 

Know of any other Canadian writing contest? Please share it in the comments.

 

Naming Your Characters: 3 Tips

Naming your character can be challenging. Unlike naming your pet or your children, a character comes with their own experiences and history.

While it might seem like a name can be something you can tack onto any person, that is not so.

A name can alter the way other people interact with your character and how your character thinks about themselves.

In order to find discover or create a name that fits, we must think less like the writer and more as the parents or guardians who named the character. Once you know the naming conventions of that society, the family within it and what external factors influenced the choice, you can be assured that the name you have given your character is one that fits.

When I wrote my story, I didn’t dwell too long in coming up with names for my character. I simply needed to get my story down and introduce my characters. Well, here I am at the editing stage and it’s time for me to think a bit more about what my character’s names should be.

In the video, I highlighted three characters, whose names were mere snap decisions. I decided to delve a little deeper into those names, understand why I picked them initially if I can unlock any hidden meanings behind them, and massage them to discover another level of creativity that might fit those character’s personalities better.

The 3 tactics I took — that you should try as well — towards finding a perfect name for my characters included:

Understanding the etymology and meaning of the name

One of my character’s name is Delaine, which means “a lightweight dress fabric of wool or wool and cotton made in prints or solid colors.” However, my character doesn’t resemble the traits of being lightweight or soft. He is tough, gritty, and vengeful. I should consider giving him a name that correlates to his personality… or I can keep it as such and find the irony in his name.

Thinking from your character’s parent’s perspective

Imagine what it would be like to be the parents of your character. Were they proud of their heritage and wanted to ensure that certain names were passed down from generation to generation? Or were they hippies and liked to give unique names? Getting into the mindset of the actual people naming their children will give you a clear direction on how to name someone or something.

Combining different words together and changing the spelling

My character Bernard Barnwell is a farmer: Barn-well. That’s by no means clever, but that was literally how names were created in the beginning. People simply received names through recognizing who they are or what they do. Such as Johnson, means John’s son. Nevertheless, here is where you can attempt to be a little more creative. Take Barnwell for example, what I decided to do was make it less obvious. So, I found the Old English word for Barn: Bearn, and combined it with the Norse word for skill (replacing well) skil. Combined I have Bearnskil. A name that is, generally speaking, unique.

Are you writing your story and having a hard time coming up with a suitable name? Give these three tactics a try and see if you get a spark of creativity. Don’t forget to have fun, and enjoy the process.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!  

The 3 Rules of World Building

So you want to build a world, well, like anything, there are rules you have to follow. A world cannot function any which way you want, there are certain elements and mechanics that you have to understand first in order for your intelligent readers to accept what you have made.

When you think of the world you live in it is easy to see all that is around you as a series of random events, but in reality, everything that exists and occurs is the result of something else (cause and effect). Mountains do not simply appear out of nowhere, an Earth-shaking event had to occur in order for the mountains to sprout: tectonic plates. In every event or with every existence, there is a cause.

Nothing happened by accident. Everything follows a rule, and so does world building. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about 3 rules you must be aware of when you start building your world.

The 3 Rules of World Building:

  1. The environment – landscape, plants, climate, animals
  2. The intelligent life – race, culture, language, religion
  3. The impending change – climate change, approaching war, a death of a family member

These are elements you will have to follow in order to have an interesting and believable place for your characters to inhabit. Hell, even thinking about these aspects will be enough to launch you in many ideas for your world. That’s the magic of world building. So much of it, you haven’t even thought about yet.

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

Can Society Exist Without a Government?

World building is hard.

You don’t realize how little you know about the world you live in until you start writing about it. In my story, I wrote a sentence stating that a town has no government. What does that even mean?

Can a society exist without government? Or will leadership form from those with the highest influence?

In this video, I explore this question, diving as deep as I can into the topic without getting too political. Staying at the very surface of what government means to me, I decide whether that sentence still fits in my story or will I have to rephrase that to better interpret what I meant when I wrote “no government.”

Verdict: Government is hard to define, but to me, the government means leadership. Think of yourself and your friends, is there a member that makes decisions?

“Hey, let’s go to Portland this weekend, I’ll drive, just chip in for gas money.” Is there someone in the group who creates plans for everyone? That guy or gal is the leader, like it or not. It might even be yourself, you high achiever, you.

The point I’m trying to make is that government will form as long as there are plans and decisions needed to be made. If something is broken in the house, who decides to buy a new one? Probably dad. He is the leader. He is the king. He decides.

If we can live in a society where there are no crimes, no deterioration of infrastructure, and no plans for the future… then yes, we can find a society without a government. But we can’t.

There might be a brief moment in history where a definitive government might not be clear, but eventually, the person or group with the most influence will take over and fill the void.

 

Interested in learning more about writing, editing, and the art of world building? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

How to Describe a Setting: 3 Tips

Settings can be a powerful way of exploring culture, nature, and history — it can also be a way to show the internal joy and pain of your characters who reside within the setting.

Think about the setting you are in: are you enjoying it or are you wanting to leave? How the setting affects us says a lot about who we are. Keep this in mind the next time you write your character into a setting.

Do they want to leave or have they finally made it?

If you want to create a realistic setting for your characters to interact with, consider these 3 aspects when writing:

1. What are the physical elements?

Can you point out where this place is on a map? Are you able to describe the floor plan? Knowing where your setting is located will help you determine how far your character needs to travel to get from one spot to another or where they need to go to retrieve an item or find someone to talk to.

2. What does the place look like?

The appearance of a setting can help the reader learn a lot about it. Does the setting have well-paved roads or are the infrastructures in ruins? Has there been a recent war or is this place prospering? Is the kitchen clean or is it gross and messy? A setting can tell the reader a lot about the history and those that reside there.

3. How do the characters feel?

Does the character want to be there? Does it bring back wonderful memories or has it been a prison for him? What your characters do within that setting will give more details into the relationship between the person and the place. In the end, you can describe the setting all you want, but if the character is not responding to those details appropriately, you will lose your readers.

 

Interested in learning more about writing and editing? Follow my vlog and join me as I write an epic story.

3 Tips for Introducing a Character in Your Novel

Introducing a character in your novel is a lot like introducing a friend at a party, you shouldn’t tell everybody everything, but rather, just the essential.

From there, you allow the character to engage with his or her surrounding, thus letting everyone else experience the character in action as opposed to you telling the audience everything up front.

When examining how you’ve introduced your character, ask yourself, is this detail relevant? Do the character’s actions show their personality? If so, avoid exposition. Trust that your readers can paint the picture of your character themselves, simply give them the colors they should use and set them off. This is especially important at the beginning of a story, as you don’t want to overload your readers.

How to introduce a character in a novel:

  1. Don’t over describe your characters
  2. Use actions to show traits
  3. Exhibit the character’s flaws

In this video, I’ll give some character introduction examples and gives some writing advice to improve your story.

Follow my writing journey on YouTube!