NaNo NaNo

I scorned NaNoWriMo for YEARS. And even after I finished it last year, I wasn’t sure I’d ever do it again.

Aaaand then October rolled around. And folks, NaNoWriMo does not let you out of its clutches so easily. For which I am grateful, because I’m SO EXCITED. (eep!)

I’ve created my novel on the website, and my outline is well on its way. Bring it on, November!

If you’re doing NaNo, add me! Username is ehbates. I’d love to see what you’re typing madly on this November!

November’s lessons learned

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line today, wrapping up my draft (rather hastily) at 52K words. I expected more of a sense of triumph; instead, I just feel a little lost. What am I supposed to do now that I don’t have to wring words out of every second of every day?

Write more words, of course!

Next up on my plate is getting Stone Alliance ready for publication on March 2nd. (Hooray!) But before I move on to that, I wanted to put together a list of things I learned from my first NaNoWriMo experience.

  1. I can produce 2000-4000 words a day. Regularly.
  2. Other things have to be cut out in order to make that happen.
  3. Social media is a great thing to cut out. Signing off of Facebook drastically increased my productivity and improved my general sense of well-being.
  4. I can’t keep up that pace indefinitely, nor do I want to. Devoting myself to churning out a first draft is good while it lasts, but at some point, I do have to get back to marketing and networking and, you know, cleaning the bathrooms.
  5. Word count deadlines are a great way to shut down my inner editor.
  6. I’m not sure I like shutting down my inner editor quite that much. I don’t know, I have to get a little more space between me and this craziness; but right now, I’m even less thrilled with what I produced than I usually am with first drafts.
  7. In the end, setting a goal is the way to go. No matter what the goal is, I’m much more productive when I have a solid, set goal to reach–and all the better when I have writing buddies to hold me to it!

So am I converted? Is NaNoWriMo going to become an annual event in my life? I still don’t know. I’m glad to have a finished draft of this story that has at least five half-written incarnations on my hard drive, but like I said, I’m not terribly pleased with what I’ve written. Then again, that could just be because I’m so ready to put Heather and Dean away and not so much as think their names again for several months, possibly even until next November. We’ll see what happens as time passes.

In the meantime, it’s time to get serious about the final stages of Stone Alliance. Also, keep an eye out for some giveaways coming soon!

How was your NaNo experience?

Let your Kirk brain take over!

“Spock, my display is down, I’m flying blind.”

“Captain, without your display compass, hitting your target destination is mathematically impossible.”

“Spock, if I get back, we really need to talk about your bedside manner.”

***

Welcome to November, everyone! After missing day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I made up for it with some rapid-fire typing during Scout’s nap today. I’m somewhere around 3500 words now, and I’m hoping to get a little more out before bed. Gotta get as much written while I’m still fresh, right? I get the feeling the fervor is going to die down after a couple of weeks.

By way of inspiration, I’m passing on a link to a fun article on fast-drafting a novel by Kristen Lamb. Basically, it wins the NaNo inspiration prize for comparing your writing brain to Kirk vs. Spock. So here’s to letting your Kirk brain take over! Write with guts, do the impossible, go forth and win NaNo!

Weeeeee did it!

I survived October! Can I get a cheer and some virtual brownies? Holy cow, guys, NaNoWriMo is going to be a piece of cake after this crazy month.

I finished my close edit of Stone Alliance earlier today and even started on the interior layout, since Scout was still sleeping when I hit the end. I love doing layout, guys. So much joy. And honestly, relief at focusing on how the words look instead of what they say. It’s a nice change.

Now it’s time to curl up, eat Scout’s trick-or-treating candy, and finish my NaNo outline while watching Arsenic and Old Lace. Happy Halloween, everyone–and good luck with the first day of NaNo madness tomorrow!

Bring it on.

For the first time in all of October, I have two full days with absolutely nothing planned ahead of me. Of course, they also happen to be the last two days of October, which means they are dedicated to all the projects I need to finish before NaNoWriMo comes charging in.

The two biggest projects? The outline for my NaNo novel, of course. I’m waffling on the ending–how cruel am I going to be to my characters? How closely do I want to weave this one in with the other two (still unwritten) novels set in the same world? How many people are going to end up on the brink of insanity at the end? I know some people would just leave it open and see where it goes, but I’m so not good at that approach. My possible endings diverge too widely, and I have to know which one I’m heading for.

Also, I still have like two-thirds of a close edit of Stone Alliance to finish before I put it away for a month. Who on earth starts a close edit of a manuscript with only a week in which to finish it? Oh, yeah. This crazy person right here. But I hit page 100 today, which was my goal. 160 more pages in two days? I can totally do that. Who needs sleep, anyway?

What are you working on? Are you outlining your NaNo novel or jumping in with your eyes closed?

Hello there, Friday

You know those weeks where you’re planning on getting that Monday blog post up there, and then suddenly it’s Friday? I don’t know what happened to this week, but boy, am I glad it’s the weekend.

Next week I’m heading to a writing retreat, where I will hopefully be massively productive and make lots of new writing buddies and get all inspired for . . .

NANOWRIMO!

Yep, you convinced me. I now have a profile and everything. You can find me on the NaNo website under ehbates. Come connect with me! I need motivational buddies to make it through this.

More to come next week. Happy weekend, everybody!

October changes

I thrive on trying new things. (In my writing life, obviously–don’t go trying to get me to use a different brand of toothpaste.) The past few weeks, in an effort to cut back on headaches, I’ve been spending as little time as possible in front of my computer screen. And let me tell you, it has been a refreshing change. Aside from completing a hard-copy edit of the sequel to Demon’s Heart, I also pulled out this fabulous little notebook:

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…and starting writing by hand for the first time in years. And it’s AMAZING! I love it! There’s something about adding in the uniqueness of your own handwriting to the story that makes it feel even more like your own masterpiece.

I also tried this for the first time ever yesterday:

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Note cards, colorful pens, and M&Ms. Again, it was fabulous. Using note cards added a great dimension of flexibility to my planning that just isn’t there in a Word doc. And, you know, a little chocolate never hurt the writing process.

So here I am, congratulating myself on trying so many new things. And then I realize: it’s October. And you know what that means, right? It means writers everywhere are ramping up for that grueling marathon of words so innocuously called NaNoWriMo.

Never in my life have I participated in NaNo. 50K words in a month? Are you nuts?! That’s, like, death by keyboard!

But I’m teetering here, friends. I’m tempted to jump on board. I have two different projects that I could do, and there’s this crazy little voice inside my head that’s screaming for me to go for it.

So should I jump on the NaNo wagon?

NaNo in February?!

Today, I’m pleased to present Julie Holmes from Facets of a Muse! Julie writes adult mystery with psychic elements, mystery with a touch of romance, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy—and she’s got a decade of NaNoWriMos to her credit! That’s amazing. Keep reading to see how NaNoWriMo reshaped her writing process, and click here to see a sample of her novel Daughter of Pele. Thanks for visiting, Julie!

***

First, thank you, Emily, for writing our first guest blog post for the Meet Your Main Character blog. It was a great post! Thank you for inviting me to try to explain my own writing process. Sheesh. I just do it. Now I have to think about it? Seriously, though, understanding why what I do works for me points me in a direction for fine-tuning my process.

To all those novelists out there: has anyone ever asked you how long it takes to write a book? What’s your answer? A year? Two? Five? Been working on it since college and your oldest child is graduating from high school this year?

Been there, and realized if I wanted to write down all the books I had in my head before I get to that big writing studio in the sky, I needed a better method. I had half a dozen books begging to get out of my head, and once there was room, more were ready to be mulled about by creative brain cells. There’s no way I’d get them out during my lifetime unless I wrote every day, the advice given by just about every writer who makes a living at it. But come on, that’s hard to do along with everything else going on. You know, like family and work.

Enter NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. Some ten years ago, I read an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about a group of local writers who participated in the event every year. NaNoWriMo = Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Fifty thousand? In a month? Okay, so 50,000 words is about the length of The Great Gatsby, so it wasn’t like War and Peace, but that’s, like, a whole book. In a month.

Opportunity! In order to write those 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write every day. If I could get into the habit of writing every day, I’d get the books out of my head, and become a better writer through practice. You become better at anything if you practice it. So I penciled NaNo onto the calendar for November.

In order to write a book in a month, I needed a plan. I wrote my first two books during the fifth grade through to my college freshman years, “pants”-ing it, that is, writing “on the fly”. No road, no map, just what I built in my head and anything extra made up on the way. That may work for a lot of writers, but I needed something different if I was going to write a whole book in a month. Maybe I should try an outline. And hey, since I’m on a roll here, how about testing the whole process on a fresh, completely new, no-mental-synopsis-yet story idea.

Gulp. I was committed to doing this, but oh, boy. I found Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days. Perfect! That’s exactly what I’d be doing. She uses a system that lays out the characters, settings, timelines, motivations, story evolution (conflict(s), short- and long-term story goals, roadblocks, showdowns, etc), beat sheets, and free-form summaries of the beginning, middle, and end. I recreated her worksheets on the computer and spent a month filling them in. I decided to write in the morning, so I trained myself to get up at 4:30 am (still do) to write for an hour and a half or so before everyone else got up for the day. Now I was all set.

I wrote almost every day that November, and though I didn’t make it to 50,000 words that first year, I created a habit of writing every day. I also learned the value of outlining my book. If I could write a brand-new story idea, what would happen if I tried to rewrite one of my old books? The next NaNo, I totally overhauled the second book I’d ever written, and “won” that year’s NaNo. The bonus was I ended up with a stronger story than my pantser original.

In the years since, I’ve learned some things:

  1. I need a concrete target to work toward, not just a “get to the end of the story” target. A “get to the end of the story by the end of the month” goal works better for me, otherwise there’s not enough pressure. Visualizing my progress, like I can with the NaNo progress chart, helps too.
  2. Outlines work well for me. They give me a chance to brainstorm the story, including character and timelines. I use them as a map through the story, but if the characters want to take the scenic route, I’ll let them.
  3. That inner editor will torpedo a NaNoWriMo victory every time, because she makes you go back and rework something in your rough draft. Hey, it’s a draft, it isn’t supposed to be good yet. Send her on vacation or lock her in a box for the month. I send mine to the Caribbean. I figure that way she’s too busy enjoying herself to bother me, and she’ll be all recharged when I start revising.
  4. I lose my “write every day” habit, so I need the annual reinforcement.

Now, with a decade of NaNos and eight completed novels under my belt (along with a few I didn’t reach “The End” on), I know I can do it. I can write 50,000 words in a month. With my last couple NaNos, however, I haven’t had “The End” success, which is frustrating. I outlined, planned, and wrote, but I just couldn’t get there. Part of that had to do with rewriting the story with a dead body this time, which changed the story line. I didn’t want to wait until November to write it, so I did something crazy. I decided to pick a month and do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo. I don’t know what I was thinking when I picked February, the shortest month of the year.

Guess what? It worked! Granted, I posted my intentions on my blog, so I was accountable to my followers, which added pressure to succeed. And even though I surpassed 50k words in 28 days, the story wasn’t done. I kept it up, and finished the story two weeks later.

Woo-hoo!

Every writer has his or her own method that works for them, and sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out what works best. For me, a NaNo approach works, including an outline written ahead of time. Afterward, I shelve the project for a month to get some distance, then call my inner editor back for revisions. And more revisions. Then send the manuscript to my writing sisters for comments. More revisions. After CPs and beta readers get their eyes on it, and more revisions, I’ll have a polished piece to add to my collection.

Now, if I could only find an agent…