Writing–November Projects aka NaNoWriMo 2014

nanowrimoNovember means NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo means that I write like a madwoman.

My NaNo this year is similar to last year’s in that I’m going to do two 25,000 word novellas instead of one 50,000 word novel. I am once again breaking rules, baby. But I couldn’t think of a good novel idea and decided NaNo would work just fine to clear two more items off of the To Do List.

This year’s NaNoWriMo project is The Odd Section of Town and Firebugs and Other Insects, the next two Ivy Russell novellas. Possibly the last two, I don’t know. I don’t have any ideas for this character beyond these last two novellas, so I suppose we’ll see. You know me. I’m not good with commitment.

The Odd Section of Town involves our intrepid private investigator Ivy dealing with several cases in  the Odd Section of Buddington, an area of own that seems to be plagued by a rash of bad luck that seemed to start around the same time an old friend came for a visit.

Firebugs and Other Insects finds Ivy looking for a mentally ill man during a rash of fires that are certainly the work of one weird arsonist.

I felt like it was a good idea to get these two written since I already had the ideas and the only thing holding me back was The Timeless Man wasn’t fixed yet. But with that scratched off the To Do List, I actually switched two different novellas out to write these two and finish up the Ivy series, at least for the time being.

I’m already off to a good start and anticipate being done by no later than the 16th (yes, I realize I’ve probably just jinxed the hell out of myself). Which poses an interesting question.

What am I going to do with the rest of the month?

The answer: I don’t know, but nothing heavy. Between Thanksgiving, working Black Friday, and going to my first con in about six years, the end of the month will be no time to start anything serious. I’ll probably end up doing some revisions on projects that will only take me a day or two to accomplish. I’ll figure it out when the time comes.

My brain is kind of crowded right now.

Writing–October Projects

pumpkinsJust because I’m experiencing a writing crisis of sorts doesn’t mean the party stops. While I’m  seeking validation by submitting to agents, I also have a different plan on the board that I’m executing, one that is sort of independent of that whole writer-validation thing that I talked about doing last week. Basically, it’s Operation: Get Some of This Shit Off Your To Do List, Woman!

So, last month involved me doing a round of revisions on the Zak novella (no, it still doesn’t have a title), writing a couple of short stories (“The Seaweed Man” is a lot longer than I thought it’d be and I’ll need another week or so to finish it; I also ended up writing another short story called “People Are Terrible”), and getting the pre-order of Spirited in Spite set up. All of the was done even while I was having my “Why am I here?” troubles.

This month, since it is of course October, I will have NaNo prep, which will basically just be me going over my outlines for the next two Ivy Russell novellas to make sure I know what I’m doing. Yes, I’m doing two novellas again for this NaNo and I will talk more about them in another post.

Speaking of Ivy Russell, to help me get in tune with that world, I’m going to finish the rewrites on The Timeless Man, which means finally figuring out and writing the new ending. It will be smooth sailing on further revisions once that is done.

I also need to do another revision of Hatchets and Hearts. I’m changing the time period. I think that will be the final big change that will really tie the whole thing together. It seems like everything I wrote during a certain few months of last year/this year was nothing but a struggle. It will be a victory when I get that all sorted.

And so there won’t be any dull moments, I’ve got a couple of new short stories I could write if I need to: “The House Down the Road” and “Nadie Has a Dog”.

Slowly, but surely, I’m going to get this To Do List whipped.

Writing–June Projects

roseAfter a month of doing a lot of revisions and polishing…I’m going to be doing more of that.

I’ve decided to go ahead and tackle The Timeless Man. I still haven’t worked out all of the kinks I think need to be worked out, but I’ve got several of them figured out and I might as well get them down on paper (or laptop computer files, as the case may be). It’s quite possible that the act of making those changes will lead to me figuring out the solutions to my other problems (or deciding that they’re not problems at all; that’s always possible).

I’m also going to prep (Vampire) Made in America for revising. This mostly involves re-reading the manuscript, putting everything together in one file, and making notes on what needs to be changed. I hated this manuscript when I finished it for a NaNo win a few years ago but after finishing The World (Saving) Series, it occurred to me what I could do to fix (Vampires). So I’m going into this reading with an idea of what needs to be done, which should make the read easier.

This should be enough to keep me good and busy for the month, but I’m aware of a growing itch to write something new. It’s been a while.

Also, it’s time to publish my latest masterpiece. It should happen in the next couple of weeks. Which will it be? Novel or novella?

I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.

Writing–Ten NaNos

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Yes, my friends, it’s November so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m talking about NaNoWriMo a lot, but this post should be the last one.

Maybe.

Anyway, this year was my tenth year participating. I didn’t realize I’d done so many until I got to counting the years.

I’m actually pretty impressed with this feat. When I started I had no idea that I’d do more than one. When I first started, the idea of finishing a novel was pretty much a dream for me. Now, not only do I finish the NaNo novels I start on November 1st, NaNoWriMo as a whole has become a sort of ritual for me, a half-to.  It’s part of the season in my world that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday. There have been a couple of NaNos that I’ve gone into that I wasn’t really prepared for, having only just got the idea I was going to use a week, maybe a couple of days before, but the idea of NOT doing it never occurred to me.

I can cay with some confidence that NaNo has helped me become a better writer.

Over these past ten NaNos I’ve learned what works for me. I figured out that I’m not a pantser, but that I’m not great with a diligent outline either. The past couple of years I’ve written out a page or two summaries, sort of outlines, and written by them. It’s enough that I know what I’m going to write when I sit down in front of the computer and where the story needs to go overall, but not so much that it takes away the opportunity for me to riff and explore and see what that story has to offer.

I’ve gotten better at my discipline. I’ll always be slow to start, I think, but I’m more dedicated to putting that first word down and going from there. If I say I’m going to show up to write, I’m going to show up, period. Most of the time I go above and beyond what I expect of myself, too. I get it done.

Over the years, I’ve explored several techniques to getting the words down. The first couple of years I just muscled it out. Then I discovered sprints, write for ten minutes, goof off for ten minutes. Those really helped me build my writing muscles. The last couple of years, I just wrote. Two thousand words in a day had become easy for me to get in one sitting without getting too distracted. I could do it in a couple of hours. This year, with the longer writing jags, I found taking a break every thousand words or so helped me keep up my stamina.

My NaNo first drafts are still crap, but they’re less crap than they used to be. I’m getting the hang of telling a longer story right the first time so I don’t end up having to rewrite most of it later.

My first NaNo, I chain-smoked while I wrote. My tenth NaNo, I drank cups and cups of green tea. Not really a writing improvement, but it shows just how much life has changed during those years in between.

I went from feeling completely overwhelmed and unsure that I knew what I was doing to sitting down to my computer with a certain feeling of “I got this”.

NaNoWriMo made a writer out of me.

Here’s to ten more.

Writing–2013 NaNoWriMo Done

Typewriter

Let’s review: this year’s NaNo project was going to be a deviation from my usual NaNo ways by writing two 25,000 words novellas (that go together) instead of one 60,000 word novel.

I was lucky this year to have a three day weekend to kick off the writing and I took advantage of it, getting myself a good head start. I then continued at my usual pace, logging about 2,000 words a day during the work week.

And then I hit another bit of luck.

Though I worried about how I was going to have time to NaNo with three jobs, it turned out to be all for nothing, as is my way. I got an unexpected two days off from one of my jobs, which set up yet another three day writing weekend. I ended up writing about 17,000 words in those three days, nearly 13,000 of them coming on Saturday and Sunday.

Looking things over, I figured that if I could take advantage of an easy Monday and get 4,000 words, I’d only need 2,000 words a day after that to finish in exactly two weeks, an amazing feat in my world because the quickest I’d ever done it before I think was in about twenty days.

I got my 4,000 words on Monday.

Then the cold I’d been battling since that past Saturday got the best of me.

I wouldn’t be able to work one of my jobs while sick. I decided to yet again take advantage of this lucky break (if you want to call not being able to breathe and getting worn out just making dinner lucky) and see if I couldn’t make one final surge.

5, 799 words later, I was done.

On November 12, I checked in with 50,188 and the completed first drafts of two novellas (written basically as a novel).

Here’s what I learned from this year’s NaNo:

-That I can push myself if I really want to and I shouldn’t be afraid to push myself sometimes.

-That I’m getting better at how to work. I set my goals, planned out how I was going to accomplish them for the day, and I got them done.

-I will never feel like I write enough words in the day. If I still have time before sleep, I feel like I’m wasting it not writing. That’s both a good and a bad mindset.

-That all first drafts continue to be crap, but I’m getting better at making my first drafts less crap and more usable stuff.

This was a good NaNo. I’m pretty proud of my drive this year. I don’t think I want to try it again, not for a few years anyway, because it was quite draining. And it hasn’t escaped my attention that I still have plenty of time to write another novella if I wanted to.

But, I think instead, I’ll enjoy being done early and move on to tie up some loose ends on some other projects.

Ah, the sweet smell of victory.

Writing–Remembering My First NaNo

Typewriter

According to the stellar counting abilities instilled in me by The Count, this is my tenth NaNoWriMo. The funny thing about that is there was a time when I thought I’d be able to remember every single NaNo project I did because I didn’t realize just how many I’d end up doing.

The truth of that is here I am working on my tenth and I don’t think I could name them all.

But I can remember my first one. I think that’s because it turned out to be the most important.

I lost my first NaNo, but at the same time I won it.

My first NaNo was in 2004 and back then I was hard pressed to finish any story, let alone a long one. I’d written a few all the way to the end, but they weren’t worth much, none of them more than a couple thousand words at most. When I decided to take on NaNo that year, I had my sights set on that 50,000 word goal line. I was sure that I could do it. I had the story idea. I even outlined it on some note cards. I was ready.

And then the reality of November set in and I realized at some point by week two that I was woefully unprepared and I had really underestimated this challenge.

I didn’t come close to 50,000 words that year. I think I ended up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000. But, two important things had been accomplished during that November.

I wrote the longest thing I’d ever written.

I finished writing the longest thing I’d ever written.

Oh, it was pretty much garbage, but it was FINISHED.

That first NaNo gave me the confidence to keep writing. I now had in the hands this knowledge that I could finish anything I wrote if I went about it the right way and didn’t give up just because I got bored before the story got to the good part.

That first NaNo also taught me something about planning a novel, about how I work best. It opened a door for me to step through and learn and improve.

So here I am, ten NaNos later, looking at my seventh winner, trying to get 50,000 words in two weeks instead of a whole month and I’m thinking…

Man, this never would have happened, I never would have gotten here, if I hadn’t done that first one back in 2004.

That’s one that I will never forget.

Writing–Three Day NaNo Weekend

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

The stars aligned for me this year when it came to NaNo’s kick-off.

This year NaNo happened to start on a Friday that I didn’t have to work. I chose to seize this opportunity and schedule myself a three day weekend devoted to eating, sleeping, and NaNoWriMo.

I was originally going to start at midnight like I used to do and try to get a couple thousand words in right out of the gate. It turns out that I like sleep too much and ended up going to bed around eleven.

But I made up for it.

After my usual round of procrastination that usually happens whenever I start any new project (but happens most notably with NaNo), I found that the words came a lot easier than I thought they would with this project. An hour and a half in and I had 2,100 words. After a lunch break, I got another 2,000 words or so in that same amount of time. I decided to do a third jag just to finish the section I was working on and ended up with 4,457 words. Not as much as I was hoping for, but I did have to write a couple of blog posts, so it was a good enough start.

That sort of productivity really lights a fire under my ass. I feel invincible, like I’ve got the story by the tail and I can go as far as I want to and this weekend, I wanted to go far. I wanted to get as much done.

On Saturday, I decided I need to really push it. I ended up writing 6,100 words (bringing the total to 10,557) and feeling like I didn’t write enough. It’s part of my stupid writing guilt; I feel like I never work enough even when I exceed my goals/expectations. I did 2,000 more words than I’d hoped to do (I was gunning for 8,000 total) and it still felt like I should have done more.

I’d originally had a goal of 12,000 total for Sunday, but since I’d done that extra 2,000 on Saturday, I bumped it up to 14,000. The words didn’t come nearly as easily as they had on Friday and Saturday, but I still managed to exceed my goal, writing 4,443 words, bringing my total word count to 15,000.

This is probably the most I’ve ever written in a three day period. I think 8,000 words might have been the most I’ve ever written in a day, but the 6,1000 I wrote on Saturday were probably the easiest mass I’ve ever typed out.

What’s more, a lot of what I’ve written isn’t bad. The story is good enough that I should have something to work with when it comes to revising.

This opening weekend has given me some confidence that this NaNo might be okay, no matter how many jobs I’m working. It also shows me how far I’ve come as a writer when it comes to my discipline and my ability to turn off my internal-editor and just let the words fly.

I’m calling it a success.

Writing–NaNoWriMo 2013 Project

NaNoWriMo Day 3

I’ve decided to do something a little different this year. Instead of my usual 60,000 word novel target, I’m going to instead do two 25,000 word (or there about) novellas. The novellas are connected, so it’s almost like I’m doing a novel. I’m just behind the rules, not outright breaking them.

Besides, they have a category for rule breakers.

The two novellas are about The Rainmakers, Annie and Wil McCain, who are traveling 1880’s Kansas, practicing their trade, a gift they inherited from their parents. Naturally, since this is the Wild West, things can get a little rough. And since this is an alternate history replete with certain paranormal elements, things can get a little weird.

In the first novella, while traveling between towns, they encounter some prejudice as well as some folks that would like to kidnap them and use them for gain. In the second, they make rain in a spooky, not-quite-friendly, almost-ghost town.

I blame this idea on the fact that I watch mostly Western TV shows in the afternoons (and that’s where most of my knowledge about the Old West comes from so I’m sure it’ll be fine). The idea was further encouraged by listening to Michael Nesmith’s “Rainmaker“.

In the end, I decided this idea worked best of the few others I’d come up with. It was the most developed, easiest to further develop, and seemed to be the most agreeable with the double novella concept.

Even though research-wise I might have some issues (I have done some basic stuff), I’m actually pretty excited about this project. It’ll give me a chance to try something I normally wouldn’t think of trying.

I think this NaNo should be a good workout.

Writing–How Will I NaNo with Three Jobs?

English: My own work. Created using "Inks...

I had three jobs last year when I did NaNo and I came through it just fine, true. But last year I was only kid minding in the morning. Now I’m kid minding in the afternoon, too. Writing time may get a little scarce and/or awkward.

The days when I kid mind and teach will be the toughest.  I usually have a spare hour, hour and a half before teaching that I can use to get down some words. The more the better, obviously, and this is probably when I’ll try to get the bulk of the writing done during the day. And I can write a little more by hand during afternoon kid minding.  The rest will have to be done after dinner, if there are any words left to get.

I have a feeling that getting my absolute minimum will likely be my goal on those days. No overachieving will be happening, thanks.

Of course, I’m saying all of this with the anticipation that I will struggle on those days. It’s entirely possible that I won’t have much trouble, that the pressure of getting my words done in a short time will motivate me and I’ll get my word count for the day in no time.

And then I’ll end up struggling on the easy days when I have more time.

The balance must be maintained, you know.

I realize that I could always make up any low word counts on my days off. I try to get double the word count on the weekends anyway. But there’s something in me that wants to see my little word count graph steadily rising. Even if I win NaNo and hit my word count and finish my project, that little flatline will haunt me. I have a daily word count and I’m determined to stick to it.

If I sound a little paranoid, well, that’s how my brain operates. I anticipate the worst and prepare for it, even though more likely than not, I’m worrying for nothing. In this case, I’m probably worrying for nothing.

Whatever. I like to have a plan.

Writing–October Projects

A shot of a pumpkin, focused on its stem.

October means one thing: NaNoWriMo prep. Well, it means a lot of other things, too, but when it comes to writing, getting ready for NaNoWriMo is first and foremost. I have a project in mind, but I’m not sure I’ll end up going through with it as it’s not technically a novel and I’m typically very serious business about sticking to the rules (even if the site itself gives you the option to bend them).

But that’s what October is for me. Running ideas up my NaNo flagpole and seeing which one I want to salute and then getting it ready for November.

In case I have a few more hours to fill, I’m going to try to finish the Ivy novella to the very last polish (and finally come up with a damn title!) and finish the other novella I started writing as soon as I was finished writing the first draft of the other novella I started last month that, like the Ivy novella, doesn’t have a title, but I call it Hatchet so I know what I’m talking about when I’m talking to myself and making To Do List notes. The latest novella is called She’s Not Here Anymore because sometimes I CAN come up with a title before the thing has been in existence for months.

I’ve also got ideas for a couple of short stories and I might try to scribble out the first drafts of those before NaNo eats my brain.

I’m feeling very motivated, writing-wise.

What can I say?

Autumn brings out the best in me.