Posts Tagged With: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2016

National Novel Writing Month is upon us! For the first time since I started participating in 2007, I am not writing anything of substance this month.

The reason for this is simple: I already have two manuscripts in the process of revisions and editing, and I do not need to add to the backlog. I just finished up the fourth Zack Jackson novel and the final novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy is in editing now. I really need a break. Plus, there are a lot of other Real Life™ issues coming up this month.

There’s always Camp NaNo in April or July (and I likely will participate in one of those). By then, I’ll probably be ready to start on the next Zack Jackson novel (that’d be book 5, for those of you keeping track).

But, this is about NaNoWriMo, not about my plans.

The important thing about NaNoWriMo, to stay on track is to write 1,667 words per day. The holidays can make that REALLY difficult, so I try to do a little more, especially at the beginning, and build up a bit of a buffer.

The advice about turning off your internal editor is doubly applicable during NaNoWriMo–don’t worry about making sure everything is perfect as you go, that’s what editing & revisions are for. Once you “give yourself permission to suck” it’s much easier to make progress.

I used to get all stressed about FINISHING the story before Nov. 30th, even if I was way past 50,000 words. The thing is, if you try to force a story into a certain word length, it can feel rushed or forced (or too drawn out), so just to satisfy the Rules Lawyer within, I’ll make sure I write some sort of closing, even if I never bridge it with the rest of the novel in November.

Pancras by Lily YangIf you have an outline and your story starts to deviate from it, that’s OK, too. When I wrote Wings of Twilight during NaNoWriMo 2010 (we’re entering mild spoiler territory here), I had all these plans for a particular character only to find out, OOPS HE DIED 1/2-WAY THROUGH THE BOOK. Thus was Pancras born, who became the breakout character and is one of the most popular characters in the story based on feedback I’ve gotten from nearly half-a-dozen people.

So, crack a beverage, get to writing and good luck!

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NaNoWriMo – Week 5 (sort of)

The fifth Sunday! Tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo! If you’ve been hitting your goals, you’ll cruise past 50,000 words tomorrow and you’re darn close today. Heck, if you push yourself, you could be finished today.

If you’ve been writing like a fiend, then you’re probably thinking “Thank goodness!” Maybe you’ve hit your goal for the month already and you’re thinking “I’m finished! This is my day of rest and tomorrow, too!”

Sure, you deserve it. If you plan on doing nothing with your manuscript because NaNoWriMo is just a fun bit of mental exercise, then go have an adult beverage of your choice, if it’s legal, and celebrate.

If you’re planning on trying to sell that manuscript, your work has just begun. For one, a 50,000 word novel is a HARD sell in most genres if you plan on looking for an agent. If you’re going the route of the Author/Publisher, 50,000 is a good length for a quick, light read. Regardless, you’re going to need to edit, revise, and proofread the heck out of it before you even think about charging money for it.

mungusMungus* says: “Don’t even think about charging money for people to read a NaNoWriMo First Draft.”

See, Mungus feels the integrity of an artist’s work is important. When you foist an unedited manuscript (and when I say edited, I mean someone other that you has gone over it with a fine-tooth comb; every writer auto-corrects in their head when they read their own work) upon an unsuspecting public, you do yourself and all independent authors a disservice. People will judge all of us on the actions of the worst of us.

So don’t do it. It will make Mungus angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Anyway, that’s not very peppery. That’s serious. Be of good cheer; the end of NaNoWriMo is upon us and soon it will be Christmas (if you celebrate something else, I wish you cheer and good time during your preferred holiday!)! If you’re finished, take December off, believe me, that manuscript will still be there in January.

If you’re going to power through into December and keep writing because 50,000 words in November just isn’t long enough, well, good for you. I’ve done it many times myself. Don’t forget to stop and sip the eggnog every once in a while, though. You’ve done a great job getting through 50,000 words in a month.

Congratulations!

*Mungus is a character in my Zack Jackson novels. He’s an Ersidian and doesn’t like to be compared to a teddy bear, no matter how apt that comparison might be at times.

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NaNoWriMo Week 4!

This is it: the beginning of NaNoWriMo week 4. I know I’m a day late; I was busy writing!
Only 8 days left! If you’re going by strict word count, you should have reached 36,674 words yesterday. But you know, if you are behind, you can still make it. If you’ve only written 5,000 words as of yesterday, you can make it up by writing 5,000 words a day for the rest of the month (including today). Granted, that’s pretty time-consuming, but it’s possible.

The important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it’s a way to help develop the discipline to write every day. Write 2,000 words! Write 200! It doesn’t matter, just get something down. Sure, there are people who use November to crank out a complete story as quickly as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve written something every day and keep doing that even past November, then you’re doing it right.

And if you fail to write 50,000 words in November? So what? The second year I tried NaNoWriMo, I barely got 22,000 words before life got in the way and wrecked my momentum. I keep promising myself I’ll get back to that story someday…

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NaNoWriMo Week 3

We’re at the mid-point of NaNoWriMo 2015 now. Did you know there are five Sundays in November this year? That’s five Week Beginnings to crank out words.

I can hear some of you now: Five weeks to fail.

No, no, no. It’s not about failing or succeeding. It’s about writing something. Anything. If you’re stuck, create an author-insertion character and rant at length about how sucky your productivity is, then kill them in the next scene. I guarantee you that can get you through a day’s worth of writing quota. You can always edit that part out later.

In fact, if you’re really focused on this whole “I MUST WRITE 50,000 WORDS IN 30 DAYS” thing, then creating quick, non-sequitor scenes using existing characters or new characters can really boost your word count. What you write for NaNoWriMo doesn’t have to be formatted perfectly or even make sense in the context of your story, because the point of NaNoWriMo is not to write, edit, and polish an entire novel in 30 days (that’s madness!), it’s to JUST WRITE.

If you’re serious about this writing thing, use November as a way to build habits. Particularly, the habit of writing. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t write everyday, at least, I don’t wright my fiction every day. In fact, I often write in bursts: a bunch of words one week, then nothing for weeks on end, then a month solid of words, words, words. But here’s the secret to that bit of advice: all writing helps you improve, regardless of whether or not its germain to the story you’re composing. You can’t be a writer unless you write. You can’t be an painter if you don’t paint. You can’t be an author if you don’t auth.

Okay, it breaks down a bit there since “auth” isn’t actually a word.

OR IS IT? I’m a writer, I just made it up! Shakespeare got away with it. Of course, who knows, back in the day, he probably had people chastise him for making up words.

“Verily, Shakespeare. Thou canst not just make up words as thy whims see fit.”

“Forsooth, piss off, naysayer.”

Now look at him. We use words made up by Shakespeare all the time: arouse, compromise, frugal, gust, obscene, panders, obsequiously, zany, bump, green-eyed, torture, etc. (from shakespeare-online.com … maybe they’re lyin’). Who knows? Maybe YOU could be the next Shakespeare.

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NaNoWriMo – Week 2

So, how is your NaNoWriMo going?

Well? Poorly? Some where in between?

There’s still time. It’s only week 2.

Maybe you’re panicking. Maybe you didn’t write ANYTHING during week one because that pesky thing called “Real Life” got in the way. That’s okay, it happens.

You still have time.

The fact of the matter is, 50,000 words can be cranked out in a MUCH shorter period of time than 30 days. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re QUALITY words. I’ve seen people who claim to have completed NaNoWriMo by day two (probably, there’s people who say they’ve done it on day one).

Just remember one thing: if you don’t complete your 50,000 words by the end of the month, you still have more words written than you did when the month began. Even if you wrote one sentence, that’s more than most people write for creative purposes in a year.

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NaNoWriMo2015 – It begins! An Indie Author/Publisher’s perspective

It’s that time again! NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Some authors believe it’s a waste of time; nothing good can come out of 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Some authors think it’s great: it builds discipline, it’s fun, you’re writing, creating!

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, go for it! If you don’t, that’s fine too, just don’t crap on other people’s fun. Also, since we turn back our clocks today, you can have an extra hour to write!

Personally, I have no problem with a first draft written in thirty days. Everyone writes at their own pace, after all, and I have seen authors decry the concept of doing 50,000 words in thirty days and in the next breath claim to average 2,000-3,000 words a day (that’s 60,000-90,000 words in a month, folks… more than enough to “win” NaNoWriMo).

I do have a problem with people writing a first draft in thirty days, calling it “done,” and trying to sell it to an unsuspecting public. Unedited work from independent authors gives all indie authors a bad name.

It’s one reason I shy away from calling my work “self-published.” It’s just not true. I have a publishing company (VFF Publishing) of which I am sole proprietor, and I do publish my own work, but I am hardly the only person who works on it. I hire (that means, I PAY) editors, designers, and artists. Each book I publish has at least three or four other paid contractors working on it behind the scenes and two or three volunteers (mostly Beta Readers). Each book is a team effort. For example, in the course of publishing Scars of the Sundering, Book 1: Malediction, I paid Laura K. Anderson for editing services, Lily Yang for cover art (and a few pieces of incidental art for marketing), Eric Hubbel for cover design, Anna Meyer for cartography, and I tried to pay Axel Löfving for heraldry, but he won’t send me an invoice.

The next book in the series will have a similar list of paid contractors. So, it’s not self-publishing in my mind. It’s certainly not fast. If I had wanted to publish my first draft, Malediction would have been released in September of 2014, rather than July 2015.

I am an independent Author/Publisher, and I participate in NaNoWriMo because I find it useful for focusing my energies on what I need to be writing. Frankly, I don’t want you to see what I produce during that time, because I NEED my editors and Beta Readers in order to make what I write better. It’s not cheap, but the results are worth it.

Of course, with all this rambling, I haven’t talked much about what my NaNoWriMo project is this year. As a working author, with projects I want to sell, I alter NaNoWriMo’s goals to fit my needs. I plan to write 50,000 words, but it won’t be a complete story. It will be the last half of the third novel in the Scars of the Sundering trilogy: Salvation.

I had about half of Salvation written when I had to stop to finish the production of Malediction so I could sell it at Gen Con. There was a lot of family drama around that time (some of which is still ongoing) and changes at my day job, so I never got finish my draft of that book (I didn’t stop writing, though; I had to re-write the opening of Scars of the Sundering: Lament, and I worked on a short story for an anthology that ultimately got canceled, and I wrote a World of Calliome short story for next year’s Gen Con Author’s Avenue anthology). Now that all that is out of the way, I can concentrate on finishing Salvation.

Truth be told, I needed the break. I needed to think about where the story was going and how I was going to end it while staying true to the themes I’d established in Malediction and Lament. I split up my cast of characters in Lament, and while I planned to reunite them by the end of Salvation, I had to figure out a way to do it that wasn’t contrived or forced. In the course of doing so, I came up with a resolution for the series that I think will surprise readers and defy expectations, yet still be satisfying.

So, write NaNoWriMo-ers. Write like the wind and create art! Create it for yourself, because YOU are the only person that matters when it comes to your art.

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2014 In Review

I kind of slacked off on blog updates for the last 6 weeks or so. I had intended to update once-a-week through NaNoWriMo, but clearly, that didn’t happen. What did happen was I got involved in writing my manuscript an felt that any time I spent writing something else was time when I wasn’t working on my novel.

Ironically, I’m still working on that novel. I ended NaNoWriMo somewhere in the mid-70K range, so it was a successful event. I’ve been plugging away through December and am currently sitting at just over 109,000 words. The first book in the series had a 110,000+ word first draft, so I’m not surprised. I hope to finish this one up here in the next couple of weeks, then take a few weeks or month off to work on some other projects. The first book, Malediction, will undoubtedly need revisions during that time (and I’ve been tweaking it as required while I work on book 2, Lament. I anticipate work on book 3, Redemption (or Revelation, still haven’t decided), to begin near the end of February or early March.

Sales for 2014 were pretty sluggish. Granted, I wasn’t doing much to market anything. Royalties from my Seven Galaxies story in Sojourn turned out to be my biggest consistent money maker in 2014, so I have high hopes for the revenue from having two stories in paid anthologies. My sales at signings and conventions were pretty good, though. My Gen Con sales more than paid for my inventory costs this year, and I think, the costs of the table. It didn’t pay for the hotel though, but since I was going to go to Gen Con anyway and stay downtown in a hotel, that would have been an expense regardless of whether or not I sold any books.

Now, when I talk about revenues, I’m talking about numbers on the order of $25 a QUARTER as being my largest source. Obviously, I’m not pulling in enough money to quit my day job yet. Still, reviews have been good overall, so people who don’t like my stories obviously don’t care enough to leave negative reviews (the worst review I have is on Goodreads, and it is a 2-star, no-text review of The Foundation of Drak-Anor compilation I sold at Gen Con; the reviews of the individual novels in that omnibus average above 4.6 out of 5). I would like more reviews though. They really do help motivate me to keep writing.

For 2015, I’m looking forward to completing the Scars of the Sundering trilogy. I have already engaged an artist to do the covers for me, as well as a cartographer to update the map. Book 1 is in the editing stage, Book 2’s first draft is probably 10-15K words from being finished, and I have a lot of ideas for Book 3. I plan to write a short story for the as-yet-unannounced Sojourn 3 anthology, as well as, another Zack Jackson novel (Zack Jackson and the Secret of Venus). I’ve also been developing an urban fantasy setting (think along the lines of Hellboy/Dresden Files/Anita Blake before they focused solely on paranormal erotica) and a series of children’s fantasy picture books. I don’t know if anything will come of those last two in 2015, but development will certainly continue. There will be a few surprises at my public appearances, too.

One other thing that will happen in the first quarter of 2015 is another interview series with the authors of the stories featured in the second Sojourn anthology. Depending on how many I get, there will be 1-2 posted a week. It’s a larger book with more authors than the first anthology. If you haven’t checked out the Sojourn anthologies yet, you can get them from Amazon and other book stores.

Have a great 2015!

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NaNoWriMo, week 1

Week One of National Novel Writing Month is behind us. As we embark upon week two, here are a few things to consider:

  • If you have not started yet, there is still time. You only need 2,500 words a day to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month.
  • If you started before today, that number is smaller.

November is a very challenging month. It is only 30 days. Camp NaNo in July gets 31 days. There is a major holiday at the end of the month, and while July 4th is a popularly observed U.S. holiday, for me, it is easier to get other things accomplished around July 4th compared to Thanksgiving. Of course, if you are the type of person to enjoy outdoor activities in July, perhaps November works better for you. I’m not one of those people; there are advantages to being an introverted hermit.

How did your Week One go? Writing in the evenings and weekend has gotten me past the half-way point already. If I keep this pace, I’ll hit 50,000 words around Nov. 18th. My novel won’t be finished at that point, though. It is book 2 of a trilogy. Book 1 clocked in at 110,000+ words before revisions. Book 2 will have to be about that length, so it behooves me to maintain a brisk pace. It is unlikely I’ll have a complete manuscript by the end of the month. I’ll have a beginning and an end, but the middle won’t be finished.

But that’s OK. As I said in my last blog post, NaNoWriMo is more about developing the discipline to write daily, which is the cornerstone of a successful writer. There are ways to boost your productivity. As with any bit of writing advice, this is what works for me: you may have different experiences.

Write in a distraction free environment. If you find yourself always finding just one other thing to do before you hunker down and write, change location. For example, I used to write at my desktop PC. The one that has all the games, in the room that has all my stuff. It was OK for a couple of years, but gradually became more and more difficult to get anything done. So, I switched to my laptop in my game room (for tabletop games… which I can’t play alone). There’s a Keurig so I can have hot beverages, a refrigerator so I can have cold beverages, and no games I’m currently playing on that computer. I can hook it up to speakers so I can listen to music and write away. It’s just across the hall from all my stuff, but it’s far enough removed that it’s much more distraction-free.

Don’t be afraid to take a break. Get up, walked around. Do something else that isn’t related to your writing. There’s no rule that says you can’t think about your novel while you’re doing these other things. I do a lot of thinking while I’m doing lawn work, cleaning, driving to work, or running errands. The majority of my writing prep is done in this fashion (which it why it probably looks like I’m distracted or talking to myself most of the time). When I’m doing this, I can build of quite a backlog in my head. When I sit down to write, it’s like opening the floodgates (Saturday, for example, I cranked out almost 6,000 words in probably no more than 3-4 hours of writing spread out over the morning, afternoon, and evening; it wasn’t one marathon session).

Engage the NaNoWriMo community. Need to bounce ideas off someone? That’s what the forums are for! I often do this on Twitter or Google+, too. I don’t find the Word Sprints and other mini-challenges appealing though. They’re often topical and not relevant to my novel. Recent sprints were things like “include the word escape” or “bear.” I would’ve spent more time trying to figure out how to work that into my narrative than actually doing the sprint. However, if you’re just totally winging things or are stumped, then these exercises can be valuable. It might be an interesting experiment one day to write something and incorporate as many sprints and word wars as you can. The narrative might be a hot mess, but it might be the next literary comedy masterpiece! You could be the next Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett.

As we go into Week Two, you may find it harder to stay on track, or maybe you’re just not feeling the plot. It happens, it’s part of the challenge. When all else fails, make something explode.

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Commenculate with NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month started on Saturday. I’ve participated the last seven years, and I participated in Camp NaNo this past July. The bulk of, if not the entire first draft of Wings of Twilight and all three Zack Jackson novels were written during NaNoWriMo. I wrote 3/4 of the first draft of the first book of my upcoming trilogy during Camp NaNo this July. So clearly, it works for me.

Many people criticize NaNoWriMo for convincing people who can’t write that they’ve written a novel for publication and therefore, anything written during NaNoWriMo is horrible, bad, and generally crap. This perception is not helped by people who think that their first draft is good enough to publish and they don’t need an editor, or worse, they can’t afford one so they’ll just publish anyway and fix things when they can.

The truth is, NaNoWriMo is more about helping people develop the discipline to write. Successful authors write pretty much every day. Sitting down and being productive as a writer is more involved that just banging out bad haikus on Twitter in between clicking Buzzfeed links and watching amusing cat videos…

heheheh… kitties

Sorry, I got distracted by a cat video.

I use NaNoWriMo as a way to knuckle down and write every day. After 8 years, I still haven’t developed the discipline to sit down and write several thousand words a day, but I can do it for a couple of months at a time. It’s true that what I write is intended for publication, but really, what’s the difference between doing it when hundreds of thousands of other people are doing it, or any other time of the year? My first drafts NEVER go public. Every thing I have ever published goes through multiple editing and proofreading passes before I put it up on Amazon.

If you want to try to develop the discipline to write novels for a living (or just for fun), or if you have a story scratching at the inner wall of your brainbox, begging to be let out, give NaNoWriMo a try. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t write a book, which is the same thing that will happen if you don’t participate. Maybe you’ll embark upon a life-changing journey.

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