Tag: National Novel Writing Month

It’s Nearly November. You know what that means!

October waxes and wanes. Or is that the moon?

Either way, in just a few days the most insane month of the year will be upon us. If you’ve been following me for a least a year, you know what I’m talking about.

National Novel Writing Month

What is it?

November has been adopted by a group of industrious writers. They want to encourage and motivate everyone who has ever said, “I’d like to write a novel one day” do just that.

PrintSo they offer up a challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days.

For further details, check out their website.

In short, the project you begin on November 1 must be completely original. You’re welcome to have outlines, character sketches and other planning tools in place. You aren’t allowed to use any of those words to count toward the 50,000-word goal.

If you “win” (which means you write 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th), there are many sponsors who offer up prizes. My favorite scores: Scrivener for half price and a free upgraded membership at Scribophile.

What this means for my blog

This will be the third year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (the acronym for this event).

In 2013, I wrote the second book of my now-abandoned series Gates of Astrya. I wrote the entire first draft, about 63,000 words, in twenty-three days.

Twist of Lime CoverLast year, I was a NaNo Rebel. I wrote a collection of short stories, rather than a novel. If you recall, I hadn’t planned to participate at all.

And then my writing friend laid a guilt trip convinced me it was in the best interest of everyone if I did participate. Since I had set a goal of writing and attempting to find publishing homes for six short stories, I decided to use that creative time to write short stories. I made 50,000 words in twenty-one days.

This year, I’ll be crafting a novel. It’s the novel I mentioned a few weeks ago. The one that has its roots in a short story to be published in February by Month9Books. Since you haven’t seen me screaming about how the publisher loved the idea I outlined, it will probably be the book I’m polishing and trying to market next year.

Except I’ve got a few new plans and goals for writing in 2016. But more on that later. After the crunch of NaNoWriMo.

Since I’ll be spending all my words, energy and creativity on writing a novel in November, I’m only going to post on Mondays. That’s still five posts. My goal is to have all of them written even before you read these words.

Yes, most of them will be about NaNo. To all of my non-writing followers, I apologize. I’ll try to keep the posts short. Right now they have titles like “Finding a Novel Idea” and “Five Ways to Get Unstuck during NaNo.”

I hope you’ll stick with me during this blindingly creative season. On the other side, I might even have some wisdom to share.

Or at least some humorous anecdotes.

How I was forced into doing NaNoWriMo

10477469_768365109895488_1366994345542136501_o

The ink on my blog post detailing why I wouldn’t be participating in National Novel Writing Month hadn’t dried. My writing friend and I met at the library, and she insisted I participate in the insanity. I said no. She cajoled.

I signed up the next day. *sighs*

I thought I was stronger than this. My calendar for November is flooded with rewrite obligations. There are beta readers expecting that novel in December. Wouldn’t want to disappoint them.

“But you’re writing short stories anyway,” my friend argues.

True. I have scheduled seven days in the first three weeks of the month to work on some new stories. I’m trying to improve my market reach. A few publishing credits can only make my queries stronger.

I figured the creation process would be a nice way to give my brain a break during the grueling work of rewriting (which is minor compared to the brain strain of editing). I’m wondering if I can work on two or more different projects at a time – and do them both justice.

“I don’t have time. I’m doing a rewrite.”

“You should still sign up.” (Is someone paying her for all the people she convinces to participate? Is that what being a Municipal Liaison means?)

I have no one to blame but myself. Who clicked on the NaNo website? *raises hand* Who typed in a description of a short story collection for their 2014 project? *looks away*

The voice of reason (my husband), “I thought you weren’t doing that this year.”

Yeah, I thought so too. Why did I want to be friends with writers again? Why did I go with this woman to a writer’s conference? Why do we have regular lunch meetings?

We’re “helping” each other. I’m not feeling especially encouraged at the moment. The stress of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is making my head pound.

What are writing friends for? Apparently, to push me out of my comfort zone. And in front of a speeding NaNoWriMo truck.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What crazy things have your friends convinced you to do? Were you later appreciative of their interference? (Please say yes. I really like this person.)

So you think you want to write a book

Image courtesy of littlebahalia.com

No one who has actually ever written a book thinks they want to write a book. They like telling stories. They enjoy playing with words. Creating things using sentences and punctuation as opposed to brushstrokes and paint is very appealing to them.

When we sit down to write a book, we don’t think we’re going to write a book. We just have a story to tell. Things start going out onto the page. Generally someone else might get a hold of it read it.

“Wow. This is a really great story,” they say. “You should write a book.”

Shows what they don’t know about writing. Writing a book is not fun and games. Like everything else worth doing in life, it’s work. Yes, the terrible four-letter word: work. Writing a book is work. There, I said it.

I will admit there are times during the process of the first draft when the joy is welling over as the words spill onto the page. The story is so real, it’s like you can see the characters and hear their voices. You can feel the sunlight on your face.

Amazing! Incredible!

Then it’s finished. You think, “Okay let’s read this and see what I got.”

You know, anyone who thinks they want to write a book thinks when they read it, they’re going to think it’s awesome. I can’t wait for my friends to read this.

Another sign that they had never actually written a book.Windows Photo Viewer WallpaperWhat generally happens: I read my story and isn’t how I remember it being at all! It flowed in my brain and it made perfect sense. Not so on the page. What is this crap where my excellent words were deposited earlier this month?

Sometimes it takes other people to read the book before we see the flaws. Maybe they say they aren’t really sure what happened on page 10. Everything was going along smoothly and then suddenly it’s like we jumped in time, space, and place.

Why would someone want to read about this character? They’re a jerk. Was the point of this whole story just to entertain? Or just to get those words driving me insane out of my head and onto a page?

I’ve written a few books. I wrote my first in a green spiral notebook when I was nine years old. I have it in a box in my attic along with my second book, also written in a spiral notebook, and a whole bunch of journal from my teenage years. I have notebooks full of short stories and steno books of poetry.

I’ve been creating with words since I learned to write a sentence. I wrote a book and sent it to two different publishers. It got rejected. When I went back and read the book, years later after I learned a little more about writing, a light bulb turned on. “No wonder they rejected it,” I think. “This gal is too perfect; who likes her? What’s with the flashback on page five?”

Talk about a truckload of sophomoric mistakes. So, I wrote another book after studying craft and taking writing classes. It was the first of a series and I was so pumped.

I was determined to follow the formula for rewriting and do this one right.Halfway through the rewrite, I realized something was missing. It’s like my antagonist doesn’t exist. The conflict feels empty.

So, I took a class (notice how this is my answer to everything). I talked to a professional writer and editor. I had to scrap that book, too, along with the little darling that was its sequel.

Fine. Whatever. Throw it all out.

Next, I wrote this book that I didn’t even like, but while I was writing it, something amazing happened. I started liking the story again. I started figuring out what the character was going to be like and where the story should go.

So, hey, National Novel Writing Month. Millions of people are going to write a book this month. Yes, we’re all insane. 23 days later, I had 60,000 words in a file. A book. Better yet, the second book in the series.

I loved the story as I created it. The whole thing flowed from my creative center onto the page. I’m actually afraid to look back at it now. What if the thing’s a mess? I loved it when I wrote it. The idea of reading it now and being horrified by it just drains me.

So I didn’t read it, I wrote the third book in the series instead. Finished the whole thing. Then I read the first book (it was still bad), rewrote it and edited it. Afterwards, I sent it to six beta readers.

All of them did not like my main character. They didn’t think she was very sympathetic. The story needs more work. What this means is that I’ll be rewriting it again.

I guess if you think you’re going to write a book, go ahead. If you think your book will be worth reading, pardon me while I laugh or cry or just shake my head. Because writing a book might sound like a good idea, but it’s not as easy as everyone who has never written a book seems think.

The Many Faces of Winning

2013-Winner-Square-ButtonIf you’re my friend on Facebook, you know I spent November writing between 2,000 and 5,000 words every weekday to “win” the distinction of writing a novel in 30 days. People wanted to know what the prizes were for winning.
Let me explain National Novel Writing Month.
The purpose of having a month focused on writing a novel is to generate excitement for reading and writing. The idea of writing 1667 words every day to complete 50,000 words in 30 days helps aspiring authors to understand a professional writing pace.
For more information, you should visit the website. The event has become internationally recognized. I was buddies with a woman in Ireland.
What do you win? There are five faces to winning National Novel Writing Month:
Bragging Rights
This competition is a big deal. People everywhere have heard about it. Over 300,000 writers signed up to participate this year. Only a fraction of them complete 50,000 words in 30 days.
I can say, “I wrote a novel in a month.” Can you?
Free and Reduced Price Goods
A ton of businesses sponsor this event. Their name gets bandied around by the thousands of participants. In exchange, they grant special offers to participants and winners. Yes, you can get a discount just for trying to write a book in a month.
Some of the sponsors this year were: Createspace, Scrivener (which I used to write my novel but had already purchased for full price months ago), Wattpad, Lulu.com, Storyist Software, Swoon Reads, Leanpub, Aeon Timeline, Jukepop Serials and eight others. Check out the list here.
A Network of Writing Allies
When I wrote this post, there were 79,635 users online at nanowrimo.org. That’s only a small percentage of total participation.
People I’ve never met friended me on Facebook and wrote encouraging comments on my word count updates. I returned the favor.
Published authors shared their wit and wisdom during the event. Most of the people I’ve met in the industry reach out to us newbies and offer authentic help. Networking is important in any industry but is especially helpful for beginning writers.
Enthusiasm for your Project
When days go by between visits to the fantasy world of my creation, I become less than excited about the story. I forget what my characters want and I lose touch with their voices.
Some writers experience drought during November, but I never stalled. Will every scene be perfect? Doubtful. I kept writing though and my characters threw in a few surprises.
I’ve been lukewarm about this project since scrapping my first attempt at the first book. I forced myself to go through the motions and write the new story. I didn’t connect with it though.
I’m connected now. I know when I go back and revise the first book, my knowledge of my characters and my passion for their story will make it stronger. All because I sat down with the intention of “winning” NaNoWriMo.
Success
I finished a book. In fact, I was done on November 23. The first day to officially “win” was November 25.
Writing requires diligence and the payoff is far in the future. Someday an agent will sign me. Someday my book will hit the shelves. Someday I’ll get a paycheck for my hours of labor.
When I finished this challenge, success became reality.
For a writer, these final three items are essential. Writing is a lonely profession. During my writing time, I interact solely with my cast of characters (oh, and my cat when he checks in on me from time to time).
Most of the time, no one knows how many words I’ve written in a day or how many hours it took me to write them. During November, we post our word count daily on the website. We’re encouraged to make status updates about it on Facebook. Accountability is one of the things that keeps fledgling writers from throwing in the towel halfway through the month.
Would I have liked a cash prize? Only a liar would say no. But the intrinsic value of winning the contest in its current format is priceless.
I now know that I can write at a 3,000 words per day pace. This is a professional rate of work. Once I revise the novel, I’ll know my revision rate. Then I can combine the two and be able to tell my agent and editor exactly how many books they can expect from me in a year. I’m going to guess either three or four.
That’s crazy! But it means I can do this “professional author” gig.
If I hadn’t won NaNo, I might still be wondering if I’d made the right decision in quitting my day job to pursue my dream.

Reflections of an Open House

Welcome to our Open House
Welcome to our Open House

For a week before the big day, I deep-cleaned some room or focused on brightening the appearance of another room. My son got enlisted to scrub floors (in addition to toilets) and dust off the ceiling fans.

I’m not saying I own too many pairs of shoes (an impossibility in my world), but I had to remove all of my boots so the floor of my closet was visible. Apparently, anything that looks like clutter has to go!

In the hours leading up to the event, every floor got cleaned and every surface was set to sparkling. Lit candles added wonderful atmosphere. Fresh-baked peanut butter chocolate chip cookies invited people in to stay.

Time to Start

My husband agreed to be the guide of the upstairs and I would be the official greeter. He put a movie in the DVD player – something that seems to be happening in every house we’ve walked through – and settled in.

Hubby's Vantage Point
Hubby’s Vantage Point

I parked myself with my iPad in a chair facing the front door. Breathing deeply, I practiced my casual, welcoming smile and greeting.

We’re ready. Let the games begin!

After 1 Hour

My husband comes down and snags a couple cookies. He gives me an encouraging grin.

I decide to read a collection of short stories on my Kindle application. This way, it should be easy to set things aside when people show up.

Ready, set…Begin – anytime now. May the odds be ever in our favor!

After 2 Hours

I’m reading the encouraging comments from my friends on Facebook. I’ve moved to the kitchen counter so I can visit blogs and post comments. After all, I have a platform to build.

My Perch in the Kitchen
My Perch in the Kitchen

Apparently, things started happening in The Avengers because I didn’t see my husband for quite some time. Later, I learn he has fallen asleep.

Must be rough.

After 3 Hours

I’m pacing to the front windows every few minutes. I stare out at the Open House sign and mentally will people to pull up. Apparently, this is not one of my super powers.

Every sound outside perks up my ears, and I think someone is finally coming to see all this work I’ve done. All this cleaning and straightening won’t be for nothing after all.

My husband comes downstairs and reminds me that most people will come later. Any time now, they’ll start showing up.

After 4 Hours

I must have been insane to dedicate five hours on the second day of National Novel Writing Month to something like this. Who knew it would be a total waste of time?

Even real estate agents plan to get paperwork done or catch up on reading when they host an Open House. Why did I expect anything different?

Okay, I didn’t. I did hope someone would come to see the house, though, even if they were just out for a drive and saw the sign.

Instead, I wasted hours cleaning, straightening and fretting about every little piece of lint in my house. Further, I didn’t get to meet my writing goal of 3,000 words for the day because I knew I would be a bear if interrupted during my writing time.

When someone asks if we’re having another Open House, I don’t feel like slapping them anymore. I laugh. Sure, if I want to waste a week of my life. Why not?

Do you have any experiences with trying to sell a house? Maybe you’ve experienced another time when you’ve gone overboard preparing for some event and then it failed to meet your expectations.

Of course, I’ve talked about that whole expectations thing before. What was I thinking?

National Novel Writing Month

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header[1]

Four years ago, a teacher I worked with sent me an announcement for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). His message: “You sound like you might have a novel in you.”

His observation came on the heels of our first ever Open Microphone event in the middle school library. The librarian wanted to encourage students to write, so she offered a forum where they could read aloud a piece of personal writing.

As with everything you hope to see young students do effectively, creative writing and baring your soul to others should be modeled. She asked staff members to voluntarily read some of their writing. In response, I read the opening pages of a story that kept popping into my mind.

I fully intended to write that story. It was going to be the first in a series of a Middle School Mayhem series that would make me famous.

In my defense, I do have two chapters completed and saved in a Scrivener folder. Like so many other writing projects, life got in the way.

If you’ve been following me long, you know that I spent three years completing my bachelor’s degree while working full-time. The idea of writing something creative in addition to all the research papers and term papers made random, fleeting appearances in my mind. Obligations drowned them.

After I was assigned a blog for my nonfiction writing workshop, I decided to attempt to write a thousand words per week to post online. No one would read most of this stuff, but I would get back in the habit of writing, even if it was creative nonfiction.

Fast forward to present day: college degree completed. Now it’s time to pursue my real dream: writing.

I’ve always imagined myself as a novelist. My imagination has taken me to the top of Mt. Everest, to Mars and to realms beyond this reality. I wanted to invite young readers into the alternate universe between the covers of the book.

An admirer of C.S. Lewis (whose Chronicles of Narnia rescued me from the ugliness of domestic abuse and divorce), I didn’t want to just entertain. I wanted my fiction to include a deeper truth. Allegory seemed like the way to accomplish this goal.

Thus, my idea for the Gates of Astrya emerged from my soul into my mind. With a little work and a ton of time, words on a page birthed it into actuality.

During November, my goal is to write the second book in this series (originally, I thought it would be a trilogy, but it’s taking on a life of its own and might require four books to fully resolve).  I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo website.

To ensure I can keep writing to the end, I completed a beat sheet (thanks to Jami Gold) and an extensive setting sketch. I’ve done some research to authenticate the setting I’ve chosen. Major character arcs have been outlined, along with the cast of supporting characters.

Today, I write the first 3,000 words of the novel. Since I want to complete the challenge (to write 50,000 words in 30 days) by November 27, I’m setting my daily word count at this level.

I promise not to bog down my blog with updates and commentary about this event. I have worked feverishly the past two weeks to get most of my posts pre-written so content will continue here without interruption.

Are any of you taking this challenge? What other sorts of challenges have you pursued? What’s the most important advice you have to help someone stay the course when things seem overwhelming?