NaNoWriMo, an update on my dog, and a Bound Spirits progress report

Happy National Novel Writing Month to those who are participating this year! I’m not, because I’ve still got six-and-a-alf chapters left to write on Bound Spirits, but I’m hoping to tap into the collective creative energy that’s in the air this month to make that last push to the finish line. But if you’re in it and you could use some encouragement, here’s a pep talk I wrote last year.

As for Bound Spirits, like I said, it’s nearing the end. I’ve got two-and-a-half scenes/chapters left to go in the second act, and Act 3 only consists of three chapters, at least according to the outline, but these things can change. It’s also possible that I’m not drawing my act breaks correctly in the outline and I’m already in Act 3.

At any rate, the current word count stands at 47,392, not counting an additional 1300 or so words of the half-chapter that’s currently residing on my Alphasmart Neo, which would bring it closer to 49K. It’s shaping up to be on the shorter side — about the same length as Restless Spirits — unless I discover things that need to be fleshed out more on the next pass.

It’s getting really close to done. The thing that’s making it hard is the situation with our dog. Right now he’s requiring round-the-clock care, which means my husband and I are both losing sleep because we have to check on him throughout the night. We also have to drop whatever we’re doing to give him meds and also force feed him every so often throughout the day (yes, it takes two grown adults to force food and pills down the throat of a stubborn 6-pound Chihuahua). None of which exactly makes it easy to focus on writing.

And quite frankly, neither does knowing that even if he fully recovers from the infections we’re currently treating him for, he still has a terminal lung disease. It’s a pretty heartbreaking situation. Sometimes working on my book is a therapeutic escape, but mostly when I’m writing it just feels like I’m ignoring my dog who, barring some type of miracle, won’t be with me much longer. But it’s got to get done, so I’m just going to have to suck it up and find a way to do it.

The good news is, he does seem to be improving and is even showing signs of getting his appetite back, and his breathing has been good since we brought him home from his weekend in the oxygen tank. He’s got about two more weeks of antibiotics left to go for his infections, and he seems to be a little more alert and energetic each day. We just want to get him to a place where he can actually enjoy the rest of his life, however long that may be.

Next week I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things on this here Unblog with a post about the inspiration behind my heroine Chris Wilson and the introduction of a new regular feature in which I share my favorite ‘ships (as in relationship OTPs). But the book’s gotta come first, so we’ll have to wait and see how things go.

Is Nanowrimo a legitimate path to becoming a published novelist?

I’m not participating in Nanowrimo this year (I’m too deeply entrenched in revisions of Restless Spirits 2), but I’ve done it enough times to know that this is a week during which many of you who are participating might be tempted to call it quits. So I thought a word of encouragement might be in order.

There seem to be two types of writers who take part in Nano (not counting the established pros who continue to participate each year for a myriad of reasons–okay, so there are three types; but I’m concentrating on the first two): those who never expect to get published and are just doing it for the challenge of writing a novel in  30 days, and those who dream of becoming a published novelist someday.

It’s this latter group to whom I’m mainly speaking. Now, among this group are those who plan to self-publish, and that’s great, provided you actually go through the work of editing and revising and polishing your manuscript and don’t just rush to throw your November word-vomit up on Kindle and Createspace as soon as humanly possible.

But there are also those who still dream of doing it the old-fashioned way: getting an agent, having a publisher actually think your work is good enough for them to take a chance on, etc. And if you’re in this group, you might be wondering if Nanowrimo is a legitimate pathway to this goal.

I want you to know that it definitely can be.

It’s possible that this novel you are working on right now won’t ever be published. It’s possible that it shouldn’t be. That it’s merely practice — part of the 10,000 hours you need to put in in order to actually become good at a thing.

But it’s also entirely possible that it will be. Maybe soon. Maybe someday. Probably, you’re not done with it at the end of November. It needs work. It needs to go through feedback and revision and more feedback and more revision and possibly even more of both of these things until it’s ready. It could be an overnight success or it could take years. But if it’s good — if you know, deep down in your gut, that this novel has potential, and people you trust to be honest with you read it and corroborate what your gut is telling you — it’s worth sticking with it.

Restless Spirits is my first traditionally published novel. I wrote it during Nanowrimo in 2008. I spent another year revising it before publishing it in blog form in 2009, and then revised it again before self-publishing it in 2011. After it was discovered and acquired by Vinspire last year, of course it went through even more revisions. So it was a long, long road that stretched out over eight years before that little Nano novel found it’s way to traditional publication.

And I’m not the only one with a story like that.

The week my book launched, I hosted a launch party on Facebook where I invited three other authors to take over for a short time to promote their own books. As each of those authors talked about how their books came to be, a theme quickly became evident: every traditionally-published book featured that night began its life during Nanowrimo. Similarly, every single one took a few years to go from Nano-draft to actual published book.

I realize that the “took a few years” part might sound discouraging, but the truth is, none of us would have been there that night with books to promote if we hadn’t participated in Nanowrimo and stuck it out to the finish.

Of course, who knows? Your book could be an overnight success. Realistically speaking, it probably won’t be; but stranger things have happened. But whether it is or whether it takes years to get there, one fact remains: finishing Nanowrimo–finishing the work you started this month–is the first step on the journey.

So push through that Week 4 slump, and don’t let Turkey Day or the Gilmore Girls revival derail you. You’ll be glad you did. Someday, you might be very glad indeed.

PS – Click here for more Nanowrimo success stories!

NaNoWriMo Mid-point Progress Report

We’re just slightly more than halfway through NaNoWriMo. If I were actually going for the 50K mark, then I should have at least 25,000 words by now. Good thing I’m not, then, because as of this writing I’ve got just slightly over 16,000 words on the mystery draft. My aim for the month is at least 35K (roughly the half-way mark for this draft), which means I’m still about a 1500 words behind. I’m hoping to be able to make up ground this week.

Of course, if I were able to add freelance articles, e-mails and blog posts to my word count, I’d be well ahead. Oh well.

I was hoping to be able to reveal what the mystery novel is by this point, but that announcement’s still a little way off. But it’s coming. *knock on wood*

Back to the salt mines…

Happy NaNoWriMowe’en!

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerIt’s one more sleep till Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year–and only two more sleeps till one of my other favorite annual events: NaNoWriMo!

I’ll be participating this year, although not in the traditional sense, which I suppose makes me a “rebel.” I’ll be writing an as-yet undisclosed project which has already been started. I’d be writing it anyway, so I might as well join in the Nano festivities and take advantage of the community aspect while I can. I’m not so much going to worry about hitting 50 thousand words by the end of November; I plan to take Sundays (except for Day One) and Thanksgiving Day off, so that means I’ll actually only have 25 days to get there, and I’d have to write 2,000 words a day on average. Juggling that much output with my current steady freelance writing gig seems a little unrealistic.

My primary goal is to finish the first draft in two months, so if I can hit a word count somewhere between 35 and 40 thousand by the end of the month, I’ll consider it a win. That means at least  1,400 words per day, which is slightly more manageable.

Will you be doing NaNoWriMo this year? I go by jeanjeanie over there, so make me your buddy and say  hi!

In other news, I finalized and submitted my short story The Cellar last weekend, so now I’m just waiting to learn its fate. There might be more news to tell you about in the not-too-distant future, and it might be something pretty exciting, but that’s still in the “wait and see, need more info” stage at this point, which is kind of driving me batty. If it works out, though, it’s going to be quite an announcement, and well worth the wait.

Fire bad. Tree pretty.

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014This week did not go as planned. Matt and I ran all over town  running errands and stocking up on winter supplies. Wednesday was supposed to involve a quick morning run to Sprouts to stock up on produce and bulk dry goods, after which I was going to catch up on writing and freelance work. But just before we left, the insurance adjuster FINALLY returned our call (did I mention here that we were involved in an accident last week?).

We spent probably 45 minutes on the phone with him, asking and answering questions about our claim, and then he approved us for a rental car, so we had to go pick that up, which ate up another hour or so. By the time we finally made it to Sprouts it was noon already. Tuesday and Thursday were even more hectic. The upshot of which is, I haven’t added a single word to my NaNoWriMo word count since Monday.

This introverted homebody is completely worn out. But at least we’re ready if the winter weather that’s expected to hit this weekend turns into a big deal. Today was all about getting caught up on my freelancing so I don’t have to work through the weekend, so it hasn’t exactly been restful. My new plan is to spend Saturday vegging out and recharging my brain, and then Sunday, while Matt is distracted with football, I will make a valiant effort to catch up on my word count before deciding whether to throw in the towel on trying to win ‘WriMo this year. Unless ice knocks out our power, in which case my chances are pretty much screwed. But at least we’ll be well fed and we won’t freeze to death.

Here’s hoping next week is much calmer.

Bits & bobs, and a NaNoWriMo update

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014We’re into week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m currently at 14,191 words (that’s words written in November. The total manuscript word count currently stands at 20,714 — about a third of the way through the first draft. I think). I should be at 16,670 by the end of the day, which probably won’t happen. But if I can put in another 2K before I call it a day, I’ll be close enough for comfort. Which means I’d better keep this post short so I can get to writing.

As for what’s happening within the novel, the plot hung a sharp left the other day and now I have to solve a decades-old murder in addition to getting my two protagonists to make with the smoochies.

What else am I up to? Yesterday, I finally put away the Halloween decorations, but left up the fall decorations and added a crocheted horn of plenty that I still need to take a picture of. Today I changed out the dirt in Matilda the Box Turtle’s tank and took her out to get some sun on what may well be the last warm day of the year. And of course there’s the freelancing. Fiverr’s keeping me busy with editing and book formatting gigs, and I just wrote this post on romance novel and wine pairings for Libib.

The forecast is showing wintry weather this weekend. As unpredictable as that crud tends to be in these parts, the rest of this week is going to mostly be dedicated to prepping, to make sure we won’t starve or freeze if we get stuck here and the power goes out. Of course, the more prepared we are, the less of a big deal winter storms tend to be, so if the sky simply sneezes out a few flurries over Tulsa this weekend, you’ll have us to thank. 😉

Right, then. Time to write. How’s your NaNo novel coming? Or any big projects you’re tackling this month, as the case may be?

How to Keep Your Momentum and Avoid Burnout During NaNoWriMo

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014It’s National Novel Writing Month! Which means that millions of people worldwide, myself among them, are scurrying to draft an entire novel (or at least the first 50,000 words of one) within the month of November. If that sounds like a daunting task, that’s because it is, even for seasoned novelists and ‘WriMos like myself.

This post is dedicated to all of those brave souls who are daring to venture forth on this kooky month-long adventure. Here, just for you, is my advice on how to stay the course, keep the momentum going, and avoid fizzling out by the end of week 2.

Have fun.

Yes, writing a novel is serious business, especially if you want to end the month with something that at least has the hope of one day becoming publishable. But it helps not to take it too seriously. NaNoWriMo is the one time when writers all over the world are In This Together, cheering one another on. Take time to enjoy the camaraderie. If you can’t attend local write-ins and events in person, find a group on the official forums, or join in on one of the many Twitter hashtags dedicated to the event. Don’t be afraid to incorporate the occasional prompt or dare, even if your story is tightly plotted (you can always toss that scene out later, but sometimes those dares result in pure gold). However you find your fun this month, just know that taking this too seriously is a surefire way to lead to burnout and not finishing that novel.

Pace yourself.

If it’s easy for you to write 1,667 words (the daily quota you need to meet to get in 50K by the end of the month) in a single sitting, then by all means, go for it. For the rest of us, it’s easier to fit in sprints–short, quick bursts of writing–throughout the day. I especially recommend this method for people who think they MUST HAVE at least a solid hour or two of uninterrupted writing time to “get their head in the zone” before they can even start writing. NaNoWriMo–and especially NaNo sprints–are an excellent boot camp for getting you over that notion and training you to stop waiting around on your muse and fit writing into the small cracks of your day, which is an absolutely necessary skill if you ever want to earn a living writing.

Strike while the iron’s hot.

Related to the above tip, you’ll want to use all that enthusiasm during the first week or two to build up a buffer in your word count so that you can afford to take a break when you need to. Do you really want to have to worry about making your daily word count on Thanksgiving when you’re stuffed full of carbs and tryptophan and your family’s wanting to pile in the car and go see the latest Hunger Games movie? If you build up enough of a buffer, you won’t have to. Alternatively, you can just schedule your days off and re-calculate your daily quota accordingly.

Don’t read over what you’ve written…

…until you go to bed. Resist the urge to read your prior output when you sit down to write. Instead, print it off (so you can’t edit it) and read it right before you go to sleep. More likely than not, your subconscious will work on what comes next while you sleep, and when you sit down to write the next morning, you’ll know just where to start.

But if not, don’t be afraid to write crap.

If you get stuck, engage in free writing for several sentences–or several paragraphs–to loosen up the gears (you can absolutely count those parts toward your final word count, although you might want to highlight them or put them in brackets so you can remember to delete them later). And once you figure out where you’re going, just focus on getting the story down. Don’t worry about choosing the perfect words to tell it. You can worry about being artful on the second draft. For now, just get the ideas down.

Keep going.

If you find that you need to look something up, fact-check something, see how a word is spelled, etc., make a note in brackets and MOVE ON. Save research for the revision phase. Similarly, if there’s a type of scene that’s daunting or tends to slow you down and take a lot of effort, insert a place-holder note and skip to the next easy part.

Here’s an example. I used to write a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction. As such, I had to write a lot of fight scenes, which I always found difficult. So my early drafts were often littered with this note: “[And there was fighty-fighting!]”

Do just a little more.

When you end a sprint, or reach your goal for the day, challenge yourself to keep going and do just a little more, even if it’s just one more sentence.

Channel Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway famously ended his writing sessions in the middle of a scene at a point where he knew exactly what came next. That way the next time he sat down to write he could pick right up where he left off instead of spending time trying to figure out what came next. I’ve employed this method for years, and it works like a charm.

Ignore the haters.

It’s bad enough that you’re likely to run into skepticism, if not straight-up opposition, within your own circle of family, friends and co-workers. Even worse, every year–and I mean Every. Year.–some elitist gasbag adds fuel to their fire by writing some condescending link-bait article about how NaNoWriMo is the end of civilization as we know it and how nothing good ever comes from it (I beg to differ). Ignore them. They’re wrong. Period.

Remember you’re already a winner.

50,000 words is kind of an arbitrary number. Sure, it gets you the coveted winner’s badge and “purple bar” and entitles you to some extra swag, but really, if you put aside your fears to tackle that novel this month, and if you make any progress at all, you can consider yourself a winner in my book.

Now carry on, fellow WriMos. You’ve got this.

It’s Halloween week and Nano prep week and there is so much to do.

This is a post to loosen the gears and prime the writing pump. I haven’t written anything since Thursday, unless you count blogging about the book giveaway contest (still going on, by the way, so be sure to enter!).

I did pretty well growing my word count on Ghost of a Chance last week, almost getting back up to where I was before throwing out most of what I’d written. But then Friday was busy and full of errands, which lead into a busy Saturday of cleaning house before my mom and aunt came for dinner, and by Sunday I was ready to veg and not much else.

This is shaping up to be a busy and short week, too. My freelancing load is light this week (…thankfully? Although this is certainly a trend that I hope is short-lived), but we’ve got a lot of errands to run, including taking our Chihuahua, Pete, back to the vet tomorrow to check his thyroid and liver enzyme levels. I also want to get as much housework and yard work squared away as possible before Nanowrimo begins on Saturday. So I probably won’t get a ton of writing done this week. My main goal is to do enough to keep it fresh in my mind so I can hit the ground running on Saturday. I’m actually feeling pretty good right now about the possibility of finishing the first draft of Ghost by the end of November.

And then there’s Halloween on Friday, which is an all-day celebration at our house, hence the short work week. Which as far as I’m concerned makes up for not getting to take Labor Day off like everybody else. We still need to pick out our pumpkins, stock up on seasonal ale (I think Matt’s planning some brand of pumpkin ale we haven’t yet tried, along with some Newcastle Werewolf Blood Red), decorate the front porch, and make sure we haven’t eaten so much of our candy stash that we still have enough for trick-or-treaters.

Oy. I’m already exhausted just from listing all of that. I guess I’d best get to it, then. What are your Halloween plans this year, dear readers? And if you’re doing Nanowrimo, what are you doing this week to get ready?

Book sale aftermath and killing a significant number of darlings for the greater good.

So the big October sale is over and everything is back to regular price. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but it still gave me a boost in sales, and I gave away a respectable number of books that will hopefully translate to some loyal readers down the road.

One thing I learned is that putting everything on sale to coincide with my book launch was not a good idea. It drew attention away from the new book, which is the opposite of what you want to happen during a book launch week. So… won’t be doing that again.

As for my new WIP, Ghost of a Chance, this morning I trashed all but the first two scenes. The scenes I deleted were meandering all over the place, so I’m going to chalk that up as a discovery draft and example of why I’m not a good pantser. Now I’ve got a partial outline and a better idea of where I’m going and what needs to happen to get there.

If this were NaNoWriMo, I’d have just made some notes about what needed to happen and kept going from there as if I’d already written it that way, and waited until I finished the draft to go back and redo the beginning. But since I’m not (yet) racing to meet a crazy word quota by a certain deadline, going back and writing the correct scenes seemed more likely make the rest of the story flow better.

I will be attempting Nano this year, albeit I’ll be cheating by working on this WIP. I’m going to do my ever-lovin’ best to finish the first draft by the end of November, but a lot depends on my freelancing schedule and workload, so it’s hard to say how that will go. I wanted to try something new in an effort to carve more time out of my schedule for working on the draft. My plan was to keep the little laptop I write on by my bed, and read over what I wrote that day before I turn out my light, and then make myself wake up and start writing in bed when my husband gets up in the morning. But then this morning, which was supposed to be day one of this new endeavor, he woke up WAY too dang early, and I fell back to sleep before I could even remember that I was supposed to write. Then when he came in and woke me up it was time for us to do our morning Bible study together. So… maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow morning.

Nanowrimo participant 2014

If you’re planning to do Nano this year, Kristen Lamb’s blog has several excellent posts on how to do well in that challenge. This post in particular is a must-read for anyone taking on creative endeavors in general.

And now I’m going to join my husband in an off-schedule weeknight cheat night, because the weekend was too short and we have way to much pumpkin and Halloween-related goodies and entertainment options that need to be consumed, and we were both really craving some pumpkin ale (as I write this I’m sipping on a positively delightful Red Hook pumpkin porter). I’m sure I’m going to regret this tomorrow.

Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Are you playing by the rules or are you going to be a rebel? Let’s talk about your Nano plans in the comments!

Oh! And if you’d like to read occasional excerpts from the WIP, I’ll be posting them on Ello. Be sure to friend me if you’re there already. If not, I’ve got two invitations and nobody to give them to, so holler in the comments if you’d like one.

NaNoWriMo Prep and a Cover Reveal

shiny_web_copyI managed to accomplished two (TWO!) writing/publishing-related things last weekend: I broke through my block and figured out the main plot arc of the next book in the Damned series (and also what book three is about, and that it’s up to four books now instead of being a trilogy); and I came up with a cover for Shiny, my steampunk cyborg fairy story (previewed here), that I’m (mostly) happy with. This is probably not the final final version (I’m not 100% sold on the main font, thanks to the “y” looking too much like a “g”), but it’s close. At any rate, I’m aiming to have it ready for release in December, after Nano is out of the way.

Speaking of Nanowrimo, I had originally planned to do a series of posts throughout this month covering the whys and hows and wherefores of participation in the month-long writing marathon, but I’ve been too preoccupied and overwhelmed with getting my web design and marketing business back off the ground and, frankly, I just don’t have a lot of steam left. What little steam I do have, I should probably save for writing my novel.

The short version is, for those who still question the sanity of Nanowrimo and whether or not they should give it a try, is that I recommend doing it at least once, if you have any book-length writing ambition whatsoever. The primary reason I recommend it is because it’s basically boot camp for learning how to keep a deadline. It forces you to learn how to make yourself write when you just have a few free minutes here and there. If you’re someone who thinks you can’t possibly write unless you have a big, solid block of uninterrupted time to “get your head in the zone” and “find your inspiration,” much like I used to be, this is a valuable and necessary lesson to learn.

2013-Participant-Vertical-BannerAs for me, I still need to relearn that lesson from time to time, which is why this is going to be my seventh year (it would have been my 8th, but I took last year off). After so many attempts–some of which were successful, some of which gave me books that were eventually good enough to publish, some of which produced manuscripts that are best left forgotten at the back of my hard drive–I’ve also figured out that the way Nano works best for me is to use it to write a discovery draft, a “draft zero” that’s somewhere between an expanded outline and a full-blown manuscript. That’s why I’m not going in with a detailed outline. As mentioned above, I do have the main arc worked out, so I’ll know what direction I need to move in, but I’ll basically be pantsing it and figuring out the details as I go.

I am a little doubtful of my chances for success this year, because as I said, I’m not running on a full tank of gas and my day job is still pretty busy. But being that it’s a sequel, I already know the characters, so I don’t have to spend time figuring them out and trying to find their voices. That should help things flow more smoothly. At any rate, I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself to “win.” As long as I get a good start on my next novel, regardless of whether I reach 50,000 words, I’m going to consider it time and effort well spent. And I’ll probably be working on this manuscript for the next six to 12 months, regardless of how far I get in November.

At any rate, it’s only two days away! Which means that Halloween is tomorrow! Which means that my big Halloween book sale is about to draw to a close! Which means you should totally go snag all of my books for 99 cents each before the price goes back up at the close of October 31st (or when I remember to go raise the prices back up on Friday)! So go now!