Sunday, November 29, 2015

Five Things I Learned in NaNoWriMo

Today is November 29th. Day 29 of NaNoWriMo. To be on track to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, writers should be at 48,333 words.

I am at 50,083 words! I won NaNoWriMo!

My first draft is not finished, though. There are still loose ends to wrap up. I realized this morning that the resolution of a novel is really your main character dealing with all the fall-out from the decisions they made on the way to achieve their goal. There are side effects to all of those choices that led to the character saving the day!

I hope to write another 2000 words or so today and tomorrow to wrap things up before I forget what is churning through Kass’s mind.

That will still put me at a very slim 52,000 word first draft. I’m okay with that. (I’ll explain why shortly).

On December 1, my novel will get tucked away for a rest. I won’t read a single word I wrote for at least a month. I’m sure the story won’t leave me, I will have ideas and thoughts. I will save them for later.

Since I have reached the target for the month, I thought this would be a good time to sum up what I’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo. This is my second time winning this crazy, loony game (first was this summer in the Camp version).

Five Things I Learned in NaNoWriMo

1. The pressure of a deadline is a good motivator for me.
Even though there were no penalties for not meeting the 50,000 word goal (and really not much of a reward) the simple act of logging my word count on a website where other people could see it if they were so inclined made we want to sit and write. I didn’t want the world to know I am secretly a slacker.

2. I write short first drafts.
For many writers, the revision process is cutting their manuscript to bits. Their first draft is an unwieldy 500,000 word monstrosity. A giant slab of marble. They need to go through and cut away the excess to reveal the story hidden within.

I am not that kind of writer.

My first drafts lean toward the short side, barely skimming over 50,000 words. I found when I worked through revisions on the novel I wrote in July that most of those words were keepers. There wasn’t much that I wanted to cut.

What I found instead were lonely sentences that wanted to be part of a scene. I added over 10,000 words to my manuscript during revisions in September. Apparently my first drafts are skeletons waiting for me to add flesh.

3. The pace of NaNoWriMo is a little too fast for me to sustain indefinitely.
For me, the trouble with the pace of NaNo is that I can’t take a break. Ever.
I can’t take a day to be lazy and drink hot chocolate on the couch.
I can’t take a day to let a story idea percolate, grow into something else.
I am committed to moving the story forward every single day.

I did well with this for the first 20ish days this month. Then I hit a wall. My main character was at one point and I knew she needed to move to another. What I was missing was the nudge. The thing that would send her over the edge, recommit her to her goal. I really could have used a day or so to brainstorm and come up with lots of possibilities. I was able to take thirty minutes. I’m not sure that what I currently have done to move her forward will stay.

I have learned that my writing schedule could use a touch more flexibility than NaNo allowed me to give it (and still make it to work five days a week). 40-45 K is probably a more realistic monthly goal for me.

4. NaNo is not for everyone.
I had heard writers before dis on NaNo, commenting that only crap was written in the month of November. I didn’t quite understand their point, because to me it’s not just the number of words. Yes, I wanted to write 50,000 words this month. I wanted at least 45,000 of them to be relatively decent. I was after quality quantity (you know what I mean, right?).

This month, I finally heard an argument against NaNo that made sense to me, even though it wasn’t my point of view. Jenna Moreci made a video about NaNo and explained why she doesn’t participate. One of her reasons was that she tends to overwrite, including a lot of crap that she cuts during revisions. For her, NaNo fuels this bad habit. She becomes too focused on the number of words, not caring anymore about the quality of what she is writing and whether it serves the story. I could see this being an issue for writers who are highly competitive, determined to have the highest word count at the end of the month.

5. I recommend every writer try NaNo at least once!
To me, what NaNo does above all else is helps writers find their habit.

The completely artificial and arbitrary goal of 50,000 words pushes you to figure out how you work as a writer.

Are you a write every day, no matter what writer? A write ten thousand words on the weekend and walk away during the week writer?

Are you a die-hard plotter who needs to outline every detail before you write a word? Are you a pantser who starts with nothing more than a single image? Are you a plantser who has a few key plot moments and waits for the characters to fill in the blanks?

Do you tend to overwrite your first draft or underwrite it?

There are a million other questions that will occur to you as you wrestle your way through a novel in a month. You will find endless advice related to all of those questions. In the end, you are the only one that can answer any of them. Every writer is different. The process is going to be unique for everyone.

Before I participated in NaNo in July, I did not think I was even capable of writing a novel, much less finishing one in a month. Now I know that I can. I am a writer.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo: One Week To Go!

It is November 23rd! Day 23 of NaNoWriMo. Just over a week left for writers across the globe to reach their goal of writing 50,000 words of a novel.

To be on target, writers should have 38333 words by the end of the day today. Currently, I have 42,371 words. I hope to pass 45,000 today.

I’ll have a lot of words next week about the overall process, but for today I give you an excerpt from Kassandra.

It would be so easy to give in to him. She imagined wrapping her arm around his neck, pulling him close and kissing him. That’s all she would have to do. He would direct everything from there, she was sure. She wouldn’t have to make any more decisions other than the decision to take the first step down that path.

But what about after? Would he disappear? Would he follow her home? Leave, but then randomly reappear whenever he decided that she hadn’t paid enough for the gift, demanding more? Kass didn’t know what the fall-out would be if she did what he wanted, what she was tempted to do. Kass didn’t know him.

She opened her eyes. “No.”

He took a single step toward her. “No?”

Kassandra nodded.

“Are you sure about that, Kassandra? I really do think it is a reasonable request.” Apollo moved closer, close enough to twine the single stray curl around his finger, close enough that every hair on her body stood up, drawn to him. “Your body tells me you want to, that you are tempted.” Kass nodded again, unable to squeeze out any words.

Apollo took a step back, withdrawing his warmth. She suddenly felt empty, cold. He saw the change in her face. “Hmm, change your mind?”

“No. I won’t change my mind. I don’t know you. I certainly don’t love you.”

“That’s not a requirement, you know.”

“It might be for me. That’s something else I don’t know. I don’t know enough about me.”

Apollo nodded. “Last chance. You’re certain of your decision?”

Kass took a deep breath and swallowed, now concerned that there might be consequences for denying a God. She couldn’t make herself say anything at all, so she just nodded.

“All right, then. I withdraw my request for compensation.” Kass let out a huge sigh. “I do have another request, though.” Again he stepped close. So close this time that she could feel his muscular thighs brushing her slimmer ones, so close that she had to brace her hand against his bare stomach to keep her balance, to keep him at any sort of distance. Every muscle in Kass’s body was tense, waiting to hear what his new demand would be.

“One kiss,” he said.

This request was far more tempting. A single kiss. From a Greek God. It was sure to be an amazing kiss. They had already settled the issue of sex, so Kass didn’t think he would press her for more. “One kiss? That’s all?”

His eyes locked on hers, he nodded, leaning even closer. Kass was forced to move her hand. She let it slide, traveling across the ridges of his abdomen to curve around his side. She felt his muscles tense, his breath hitch, as her fingers passed. Kass smiled, enjoying the effect she had on him.

Apollo took the smile as permission. He closed the sliver of distance still separating them, letting his lips land softly on hers. As soon as their lips touched, they both stopped breathing. They stood frozen in place for a long moment, overwhelmed by the power of the connection.

He was the first to move, sliding one hand behind her head to angle her head the way he wanted it, the other around her waist to pull her tightly against him. His movements were slow, and velvet smooth, but worked to get them both breathing again. Their lips parted as they shared the same breath.

Apollo took advantage of the opening, deepening the kiss. Kass had a flicker of a thought that this kiss was a bad idea, that she should pull away, but the feel of him was too much for her to give up.

She would have continued kissing him until the end of time, but he pulled slightly away, resting his forehead against hers as he looked into her eyes. “Please remember that I gave you a choice,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“You might not like what I’m about to tell you. I want to remind you that it was your choice.”

Kass shifted back, wanting to step away. Apollo let her go. There was no need to hold her now.

“What? What did you do?”

“Why do you think I did something?”

“You’re a God. You have powers. You can make things happen.”

“What do you think I did?”

“I don’t know.” Kass shuffled through possibilities in her mind. “You wanted compensation for the gift you gave me. Did you take it back? Did you take away my visions?” Kass didn’t know what answer she wanted. Her visions were often unpleasant, sometimes forcing her to think fast, figure out how to change what was fated to happen. But they gave her a chance. A chance to make the world a little bit better, sometimes a lot better.

Apollo shook his head. “Funny thing about gift’s from the Gods. Once we give them, they can’t be taken back, they are yours forever. There is no way for me to take the visions from you.” His lips twisted into a smile of wicked delight. “But there’s nothing that keeps me from giving you another ‘gift.’”

“You gave me another gift.”

He nodded, a chuckle escaping him. “I did.”

“What did you give me?”

“I gave you a curse with my kiss. Since I couldn’t take away your visions I added a caveat. You will see things that are fated to happen. But no one will believe your warnings or fall for your attempts to change what you see.”

Kass took a moment to think about what this meant. “I will be able to see the future, but unable to change it? I will know bad things are going to happen, and just have to watch them unfold? Like the boat, over and over.” She started to breath fast, too fast to actually get oxygen into her blood. Kass started to feel dizzy.

“You should probably sit down.” Unlike before, Apollo did not offer to help her, guide her to a seat. He stood back and watched her as she stumbled past him, sinking onto the rock. It was not enough. Her body said enough, and shut her down, sliding her into unconsciousness.

Apollo caught her falling form, lowering her to the soft moss beside the rock. “We’ll see how this plays out my dear.” He kissed her on the cheek, then was gone.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Half-Way!!!

NaNoWriMo is half-way over!! I am still alive. Mostly.

I am still ahead, but not as far ahead as I was last week. Currently, I stand at 28,859 words (a little less than 2000 words per day). I intend to write more today— I really want to get to 30,000 before the night is through.

In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words, here is my pretty stats image from the nano website:

It looks like I am sailing through.

Here’s the problem. I have reached the midpoint of the novel. I should be celebrating. I’m halfway there! The issue is that I am what is called a pantser. I do not outline before I write. I tried this time, I really did. In October, I figured out the inciting incident, some initial plot points, and a midpoint. And then I got stuck. I didn’t know what my main character would do from there to get out of the bind I had put her in. I still don’t. I have a hint of an idea of what the climax will be. But I don’t know how Kassandra gets there. I am waiting for her to show me. She just managed to call Apollo from wherever Greek gods hang out when they aren’t making trouble for mortals, hopefully that leads somewhere.

This is going to take many long walks to work out. I don’t really have time for that, so we’ll see what happens. It’ll all be fine.


If you have any ideas for complications that can plague Kassandra in her quest to free her twin brother from Apollo’s clutches, let me know. I clearly need all the help I can get!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo, Day 8

It is November 8th, otherwise known as Day 8 of National Novel Writing Month. I thought it might be nice to post an update on my status.

So far, I am doing far better than I expected.

I started working full time again about ten days before NaNo began. I was very worried about my time. Would I be able to squeeze in 1667 words per day while working 40 hours per week? I doubted that I would be able to do it.

To be on track at this point in the month, writers should have 13,333 words by the end of the day. I have 15,981 with seven hours left in the day. I am over 2000 words ahead of target! (And I might write more later tonight…)

If I keep this up, I will have over 60,000 words at the end of the month, and possibly the entire first draft of my novel.

The reality is, I probably won’t maintain my current pace (around 2000 words per day). It’s tiring. And there’s that whole Thanksgiving day and following turkey hangover coming in a couple of weeks. Those will definitely take time away from writing.

The other problem I am trying to ignore right now is that I have no idea what happens after the midpoint of my book. I have great plans that will back my main character into a horrible position. I really have no idea what she will try to get out of it. I have no idea what will finally work for her. Or if anything will. Maybe I am actually writing a tragedy. I have no idea!

Kassandra better be on her game, because SHE is going to have to figure out the second half of my novel.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Making My Internal Editor Work For Me

Hello friends and strangers!

It is November 1st. The day of candy hangovers. The start of the month of turkey feasts. Snow could appear at any moment. More importantly (to some), it is the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Writers all over the world take on the crazy task of writing 50,000 words of a first draft of a novel in thirty short days.

I am participating in this insanity (sleighmonroe on the NaNo site, if you want to find me). I’ll be writing a retelling of the Cassandra myth.

I listen to the chatter in the NaNo forums, and all over Twitter. There is a ton of cheering each other on, which sometimes makes me wonder how any of us find time to write any words that are part of our actual novel. There are also a lot of questions out there, most related to how to deal with your internal editor.

Even if you aren’t a writer, you have an internal editor. It’s that voice that pops up in your head, telling you how much you suck. It criticizes whatever task you are trying to focus on, giving you tons of suggestions for ways that you should be doing it instead. The internal editor takes great joy in telling you you should just give up completely and find something else to do with your time, like maybe throwing pudding at a wall.

If you are a writer, your internal editor can bring your work to a screeching halt, leaving you staring blankly at the computer screen, unable to press the keys and type words. Or your editor can send you back into words you have already written, adjusting and rewriting endlessly.

This is a massive problem during NaNoWriMo. There is no time to sit still. There is no time to cycle back through work you have already done. You have to keep moving ever forward if you are going to make it to the end.

The most common advice I hear in regards to dealing with your internal editor is to just ignore it. This works for some writers.

I ignore that advice. I am unable to push my editor far enough into the recesses of my mind. The other problem with ignoring my editor, is that I would lose all the input she wants to give me. So, I make my internal editor work FOR me.

If my editor pipes up with the comment “Oooo, you should add (whatever) to that scene twenty pages ago,” I do it. I go back, and ADD the words my editor has suggested. This ups my word count. Win!

If my editor instead suggests that I delete a scene, or change an event (Betty shouldn’t walk to the park, she should find an old bike in the barn), I go back to the scene in question, but I don’t do what my editor suggests. Instead, I change the font to bold and hand her the keyboard. She is allowed to type whatever she wants. She can tell me all the reasons why a scene should be cut, she can tell me the color and style of the bike in the barn, she can even tell me that my main character is a whiny turd who just needs to be flushed. I don’t read what she is typing. Not yet.

This might seem a little odd, but really, it’s a win-win. All the words she just spewed onto the page count toward my word count. Win! Plus, I have her comments saved for later. Like January. Whenever I get to revisions for the novel, all of her comments are there for me to sift through. Some will still be garbage, and I will delete them. Others will bring up valid points and suggestions that make my book stronger. (My editor has some skills, after all, or she wouldn’t be an editor). Second win!

This works well for me; I am able to keep the story moving forward, and get the benefit of my editor’s comments. Let me know if you try it, and if it helped you deal with your internal editor.