Writing- NaNo 2017 Winner

As I said last week, my official 2017 NaNo was finished in 14 days. Yesterday, I validated The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant and got my fancy little graphic to let everyone know that I am, indeed, a winner.

But when I think of this first draft, I don’t feel very much like one.

Two weeks ago, I talked about how hard this particular NaNo was for me. And it was. Start to finish, I hit more snags than I did grooves, creating a stressful drag that I did not enjoy. Even more frustrating is that, at least in my head, I like this story. I like the characters. I like the setting. I like the whole thing.

I just struggled mightily getting everything I liked down on the page.

As soon as I was finished writing the final words of the first draft, I wrote revision notes on the first page. I’ve never done that before because I typically like the story to sit for a few weeks at least before I read it again with fresh eyes and make my notes. But this time, there was no need to wait. I knew before I finished writing the first draft the major problems that need to be fixed. And I’m sure I’ll find more when I read it again when it comes time to do the revisions.

Looking back, I think getting off on the wrong foot really set the tone of draft. I normally have that first line, that first scene waiting for me, and this time, I really didn’t. Instead, I started in the wrong place, too early in the story. What I wrote the first two days, I think, was pointless. Some of it can be salvaged for later on in the story, maybe, but it was a bad place to start. And instead of starting over, I powered through. The story had trouble flowing because I’d already built a damn.

The revisions are no doubt going to be extensive and exhausting, but thankfully, I don’t have to worry about them for a little while. At least not until early next year. But, this NaNo has definitely been a very good lesson, a hard one, a lesson that I didn’t know I needed to learn because I thought I’d already learned it.

Start your story off on the right foot and the journey will be a whole lot smoother.


Writing–Was It Always This Hard?

Yesterday, I hit the halfway point for my NaNo. Well, I hit 25,000 words. I don’t know if it’ll be the halfway point of the actual story. The way it’s going, I think it might be.

I cannot remember, at least in the past few NaNos, struggling so much out of the gate. Typically for me, the first few days of NaNo are my easiest. The story is right there in the front of my brain and it is begging to be released. When November 1st rolls around, it’s like a floodgate opens and the story comes pouring out. I feel unstoppable. And I ride that momentum as long as I can because I know that come the middle of the story, I’m going to start to struggle a bit, slogging through until the climax starts to build. The middle is when the words are usually harder to come by.

This year, I was prepared for the same thing. A good start, followed by a bit of a slog, and then a strong finish. The story was in the front of my brain, patiently waiting, while I tried to keep myself occupied during the last few days of October.

Maybe that was a sign.

The story was there, waiting, but waiting patiently. There was nothing insistent about it. So, when November 1st hit, I found myself watching as a blank screen filled up with words in an almost painful way. And when I hit my word limit for the day, I looked at what I’d written and thought, “Holy shit, this is all garbage.”

First drafts are supposed to be garbage, I know. I’ve written enough of them to be very familiar with my particular brand of garbage, which has evolved over the years into a better quality of garbage. The first few days of this NaNo, however, reminded me of when I first started doing NaNo and the utter dreck that I wrote. Not that it wasn’t salvageable, by any means. But it takes a lot more work to recycle that kind of garbage into something worth reading.

The first week, I struggled to hit my stride, to find the story, to write the story like I knew what the hell I was doing. It’s like fifteen years of serious craft study had suddenly vacated my brain and in a damn hurry, too.

I hit 25,000 words yesterday, which is on target for where I want to be, and I thought to myself, “Has it always been this hard? Is it like childbirth? I just forgot about the agony as soon as it was over, only to be confronted again during the next labor and delivery?”

And the truth is, no. It hasn’t always been this hard. Or maybe I should say that NaNo hasn’t been hard in this way for a very long time. I think I do forget some of the “labor pains”, so to speak, from year to year, especially since I try to find ways to up the challenge of writing a 50,000 novel in a month. This year, the challenge was completely unexpected.

I do not relish the thought of revising this first draft. But I know that I will.

I can’t resist a challenge.

November Writing Projects aka NaNoWriMo

Oh, yes. It’s that time of year again. Here comes NaNo number 14.

Last month I wrote, revised, polished, submitted, had rejected,  and submitted again a short story called “The Fog of a Future Forgotten”. I finally got a solid working outline done for The Stories of Us After Them. And I have Murderville Season 2 all ready to roll starting in January, with the official promo coming out next month for patrons and in December for everyone else. So, I am heading into this NaNo with nothing pressing hanging over my head.

This year I’m going to do something a little different. Normally, I pick one project (either one novel or two connected novellas) and then write 2,000 words a day, 4,000 words a day on weekends, in order to get it done well before Thanksgiving. But this year I struggled to pick between two novels that I’d outlined back in September that would be ideal for dashing out 50,000 words or so in a few weeks.

So, I came up with a compromise.

My official NaNo novel for 2017 is going to be The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant. My goal is to write at least 3,000 words a day, which will have it done in a little over two weeks. And then when it’s done, I’ll start writing The Coop Run and try to finish it before the end of the month. If I don’t, no big deal. My official NaNo will already be done. I should have enough of the novel’s first draft done that finishing it up in the first week or so of December should be no trouble.

I admit that this is pretty ambitious. But NaNo has been something that’s always allowed me to push myself and get creative about how I do that. Every year I think maybe I should be done and every year I find something to write and a way to make it challenging and interesting. This is where I grow.

Bring it on, NaNo. I’m ready.

October Writing Projects

September was the the month of organization. I cleared a few ideas out of my head so I have more room to think as well as cleared a couple of things off of the To Do List of Doom.

The final blueprint of The Star Reader is done. It took a lot longer than I anticipated as it turned out to be much more involved than I thought it would be. It’s going to be interesting to see how this blueprint holds up when I write the first draft.

I also outlined The Coop Run and The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant. The outlines are pretty basic compared to the blueprint I did for The Star Reader because these stories are a little more straightforward and a little simpler. At least in my mind.

The intended outline for The Stories of Us After Them is still undone, though. This story is much more ambitious than anything else I’ve ever done which explains why I thought something that would be easily done…isn’t. I will keep futzing with it. Eventually, it will all come together. Meanwhile, I did revise and post the related story “The Zookeepers Liberation” on Prose.

I also submitted a poem called “Il N’est Pas Mon Mari” that I’ve been working for weeks to a contest and wrote the first draft of a story called “The Fog of a Future Forgotten”, which I plan to revise and submit. It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, but only finding a possible fit for it gave me the motivation to write it.

So, this month, I plan on revising, polishing, and submitting “The Fog of a Future Forgotten” before I go to Seattle next week and polishing Murderville Season 2 so I can get it all scheduled and ready to go for next year after I get back.

And I’ll work on something while I’m in Seattle.

Okay, yes, that doesn’t sound very definitive. But, I haven’t decided what project would be best suited to work on during the trip. It’s a given that I will be snapping pictures and taking in as much of the vibe as possible as stories always need settings (and I’ll also be doing some non-writing related work as well), but it might be a good time to work on a smaller, easier project.

I mean, yeah, I could also just not write, but what fun is that?

And finally, I’ll nail down what I’m doing for NaNoWriMo. It’ll either be The Coop Run or The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant. But not both.

I mean it, self. Not both.

If you’re a Murderville patron, look out for a paid teaser episode going live on October 10th. It’s a preview for Season 2. Also, if you’re not a patron, now is the time to become one. Not only will you get to read the first season, The Last Joke, and the upcoming new season, but we’re only a few bucks away from hitting the $25 goal, which means a Murderville Mini-Mystery! Only $1 per episode gets you in on the fun. $2 per episode also gets you bonus material. It’s a killer deal.

That’s Another NaNo Win

NaNo 2016 winNaNoWriMo was in the bag at a little over 50,000 words on November 19th and I got around to validating it on the 26th. I reconciled pretty early on in the story that I wasn’t going to hit 60,000 words like I usually do for my NaNo novels, but I sort of knew that was going to be the case. The story I had was a little thin, to be honest. As I wrote I saw places that will probably be fleshed out whenever revisions happen, but I didn’t bother following any of those tangents. More than any other NaNo, I just wanted to be done.

This was a sort of wild NaNo. For the first time in many years I didn’t make my usual 2,000 word minimum every day. Taking off for the Cubs World Series parade, I settled for only writing 500 words two days in a row, which set me back not only by my standards, but also by the NaNo daily need to stay on target.

I only made 4,000 words a couple of days. I usually hit that mark easily on the weekends, if not a couple of other days during the week. The fallout from the election really kinda consumed my existence for a solid week, week and a half. Most of my time was spent reading articles and being active on Twitter spreading information (I’m sure I was muted/blocked/unfollowed by scores of people because I wasn’t entertaining anymore and I’m sure the few people who know me in my offline existence were the first to go). I didn’t want to write anything, let alone some stupid novel about a conjurer that will probably never be revised and/or see the light of day, even if I do love my conjurer and her friends.

But I wrote it anyway.

Because that’s kinda the point of NaNo. Writing when real life intrudes. Writing when you don’t want to. Forcing yourself to make time for your words. This is my 13th NaNo. You’d think I’d have gotten that drilled into my brain by now. I guess it sort of is because that is what made me push to get my words written. I admit that some days were more of a struggle than others.

My final push saw me hit 6,000 words two days in a row. Like I said, I wanted to be done.

And I am and I’m glad and it’s win number 10.


November Writing Projects aka NaNoWriMo

nanowrimoIt’s that time of year again. Oh yes. Time to write 50,000 words (okay, 60,000 for me) in thirty days.

I finally figured out that I should just write another Outskirts novel. This one will feature truther (not THAT kind of truther) Maisie Day, conjurer LittleJessie Witt, and famed hunter Sister Mary Valle. The working title is To Tell the (Conjurer’s) Truth, which isn’t great, but not great titles are my thing. I’m not married to it by any means, so I can easily change it if I ever revise it.

Naturally, I say “if” because (Vampires) Made in America and The End of the (Werewolf) Curse still sit waiting. I’ll get around to them one day, I’m sure.

I’ve only outlined the first ten chapters of To Tell the (Conjurer’s) Truth, the idea being that for every chapter I write, I’ll outline the next. You know. Write chapter one and then outline chapter eleven. I don’t want to get too far ahead with this story because I only have a vague idea of what I’m doing with it.

Reassuring, no?

This could be a potential disaster, but I’m all in as always, baby.

Though my main focus will be on NaNo as my Novembers are usually spent (I think this is number 13 maybe), I did finish the first “season” of my Patreon serial idea. I’m going to attempt to revise at least the first episode or two during the month. Fingers-crossed that it’ll be something worth trying come the new year. As usual, I was feeling way too ambitious to think I’d have it ready to go before then.

I’ve also been writing essays on the side for the last month or two. Just another practice thing. A page a day of learning is good for my brain, I think.

Let’s hope I have some brain left after this month.

What Has Shaped My Writing

flame box elder penThe lovely Trinae Ross, who has a blog called Writing While Wearing a Straightjacket, tagged me to write a blog post about what has shaped my writing (you can read her post on it here). I will eventually tag someone else to do this, but first, my words on the subject.

I wrote my first word at three, my first story at six. From the time I was little, I was always coming up with stories and plays. I once wrote and produced a radio play using the kids in my mother’s daycare and the neighborhood, recording our voices on a blank tape on a radio. It was a murder mystery. I even attempted a retelling of Sleeping Beauty using nothing but pictures I’d taken on one of my little cameras. This was in the days of film, kids. I had no idea how good it was until my mom finally got that roll developed.

Storytelling has always been a part of my existence, a thing so ingrained in me that it might as well just be another chromosome. Even if I didn’t write them all down, I was still telling them, either to others or to myself.

So, what has shaped my writing?

I gave this question a good long think and I came up with three things.

1.) Fanfiction. I wrote mounds of it for several years, from the ages of about 18 to 21. The nature of fanfiction at the time and where I was posting it allowed for instant feedback on what was working and what wasn’t. It also taught me the very valuable lesson of writing for myself first.

I tell this story a lot because even after all these years later, it still resonates. One of my most popular stories started as a one off. It was just supposed to be that one little thing. But people begged for more and so I gave in and wrote a much longer story. It was a soap opera romantic thing and everyone loved it. Meanwhile, I HATED writing that story. HATED IT. I had never been so happy to finish anything in all of my life and I don’t think I’ve ever received a louder applause for anything I’ve ever written since. But that applause was so empty because I hated the story so much. That was when I recognized the importance of writing for myself first. And if other people read it and enjoy it, then that’s the bonus.

Another great lesson fanfiction taught me was that not all stories need happy endings, but EVERY story must have a SATISFYING ending. The readers will disagree, but the writers will know.

2.) NaNoWriMo. NaNo taught me the discipline to write every day. It taught me that I could complete a novel-length work of fiction. It taught me how to write by the seat of my pants, how to meticulously outline, and how to find a happy place somewhere between the two. It taught me that first drafts are supposed to be garbage and that the real magic happens in the revisions. It taught me everything I needed to know about how I operate as a writer, my habits and my weakness and my strengths. Basically, NaNo taught me about the nitty-gritty heavy-lifting that gets glossed over a lot in favor of inspiration and muses.

3.) Stephen King’s advice. On Writing has been a brilliant guide for me and I’ve waxed poetic about that book before. But I’m going to focus on one particular bit of Uncle Stevie’s advice here: Read a lot and write a lot.

I am notoriously awful at reading for a writer. I know I don’t read enough and I struggle to read more. My only comfort is that when I do read (and I try to be consistent about it even when it’s often interrupted and I’m very slow), I try to get as much out of it as I can. In addition to reading for pleasure and enjoying the story (or trying to, depending on the book), I try to read with a critical eye and learn from other writers, particularly in my areas of weakness. If someone effectively describes something or transmits an emotion or has a clever way of conveying some idea, I take note of that and try to put it to use in my own work. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. But I’m always looking to learn.

I do write a lot and I think it’s been the writing a lot that has done the most to shape my writing. It’s helped me find my voice and my style. It’s allowed me to build my confidence. With millions of words written over the course of my writing career (remember, I started this in earnest back in 2007), I can actually look back and see my growth. I can see where I failed. I can see where I improved. I can see where I still need more work and development. I couldn’t have done any of that if I hadn’t put the words down somewhere.

I think there are probably other things that have shaped my writing. I think just about everything in my existence could be said to shape my writing, for better or worse. But I think these are three things that had the biggest impacts.

And I think they’ve all been for the better.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Done and Other Stories

nanowrimoI officially reached 50,000 words and the end of the first draft of The End of the (Werewolf) Curse yesterday. Compared to the last two years, I was positively slacking on the daily word count and the speed because it took me nearly three weeks to finish. In 2013 I finished in 12 days and in 2014 I finished in two weeks. I averaged between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day this year, which is good, but I still felt lazy.

I felt so lazy, in fact, that I started working on a novella in addition to working on NaNo.  At just a page a day starting on November 3rd, I managed to get about 5,400 words written on The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys.

But, back to NaNo.

The use of the loose outline worked out pretty well for me in terms of getting my word count in every day. My biggest hang-up as always is just getting started for the day. Once the words start, I usually hit my daily target in no time.

However, I admit that this first draft felt like a total slog. There are aspects of this story that I really like and I really hope I can build on when I revise it, but I also feel like this thing is boring as hell and my characterization is shit and everything is terrible. Considering I feel that way about a lot of my NaNo projects, I may be just a tad pessimistic about it, but I don’t think so.

But it’s done and that’s always the goal and it’s time to start thinking about other things.

When I’m doing NaNo, I don’t really want to do much else. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to write blog posts. I don’t want to work on any other projects (obviously writing the novella at the same time this year was the exception, not the rule). When I finish NaNo, it’s like touching back down after orbiting the Earth for a few weeks. Time to get back to the other things on the To Do List of Doom.

I’m working on getting The Ivy Russell Novellas paperback out and about.  Right now, it’s only available on Lulu, but eventually, it’ll get to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and such. I’ll also be updating the links to The Ivy Russell Novellas eBook, as it’s finally hit some other marketplaces.  So be sure to check that out!

Now, back to the word mines.

November Projects aka NaNoWriMo 2015

nanowrimoIt’s that time of year again. Oh, yes. It’s time to put my butt in the chair and crank out 50,000 words (or more) in 30 days (or less).

This year I’m going back to writing an actual novel after two NaNos of doing novellas.

I’m heading back to Outskirts territory to write The End of the (Werewolf) Curse. This story will feature werewolf Paxton Perlman in a starring role and without his vampire buddy Stanley Ivanov at his disposal. Instead, he seeks help first from conjurer LittleJessie Witt and then from a coven of witches. It should be a good time. I’ve had this story bubbling in my head for a while and I think it’s ready to become words.

Unlike previous years, I’m not doing a detailed chapter by chapter outline. This used to be my go-to in past years of NaNo. After the first few years of failure, I found that if I had that detailed outline and new exactly what I was supposed to be writing that day, then I made my word count a lot easier. This has been my key to winning.

But, this past summer, when I wrote my novella-turned-novel (that STILL doesn’t have a title, for crying out loud), I didn’t have an outline. I just rolled with it until the end. I wrote without being sure of the end. And when I re-read it and revised it, I found that I’d done a pretty good job and I didn’t have to make too many story alterations. I’m taking this as a sign that I’m getting better as a writer, getting better at letting the story roll naturally without having to write everything down before hand to see where I’m going.

So, I’m sort of half-pantsing NaNo this year (“pantsing” refers to not using an outline, but writing by the “seat of your pants”). I have a basic outline and I know the main characters and I have a good idea about where the story starts. But I’m pretty hazy on where it ends and I only have a vague notion of how I’m going to get there.

This method worked very well this past summer to get 1,000 words a day. We’ll see how it works out when I’m trying to get 2,000 to 4,000 words a day (so far, so good).

Even if it doesn’t work the best, I’m confident that my skills will at least get me 50,000 words before Thanksgiving.


Go team!

October Writing Projects

pumpkinsHonestly, I don’t have a lot going on this month. This is mostly due to NaNoWriMo looming. I don’t like to jam my schedule full the month before I’m going to be focused on writing 50,000 words as quickly as possible. It wears out my brain and renders me useless.

The only things I HAVE to do this month are finish the revisions on the novella-turned-novel, which hopefully include finally giving it a title, and finalize my outline for this year’s NaNo endeavor, The End of the (Werewolf) Curse.

Things that I could do if I feel the urge: revise Voice, revise “The Wind Chime Tree”, revise “Darling”. I don’t think I’ll start writing anything new unless something irresistible pops into my brain.

Most likely I’ll be saving that energy for November.

If you haven’t voted in the poll to decide the fate of the Ivy Russell novellas, please do so. The poll closes next week. Yes, I know it’s only been open a day. What can I say? This has been eating away at my brain for months now and I’d like to finally have a conclusion.

And, if the majority rules that I do anything other than nothing, then I’ll have something else to do this month.