Novel Progress

Today I reached 50,000 words on my novel. Based on my outline, I’m a little past the half-way point.

I’m still learning what works for me. Here are some of the main things:

Set, and reset, an achievable goal.

I floundered a bit in December, but recommitted to my goal of 500 words per day on average. At this rate I will finish the novel first draft sometime around the end of May. Some days I write more and some I don’t write at all, but that’s okay because I’m in it to finish.

Keep track of progress.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my daily word-count. I set it up to display what day I will finish the novel, based on my current total word count and daily goal. I find that I feel really motivated to keep up my progress when I see my projected completion date change. And if I have one… or two… or even three days without writing (because life happens) my writing log motivates me sit down and get back to it.

Guard against things I know will derail me.

The temptation to “take a break” from writing the novel to “just write one short story” is very enticing to me. But I know that the sweet and sparkly lure of writing distraction that a short story offers is pure kryptonite for me. So lately when I get an idea for a short story, I write it down and save it. I don’t get to revisit that idea until the novel draft is finished.

Almost as tempting, but equally derailing, is the urge to go back to the beginning of my novel and rewrite it. I’ve made notes, and I don’t get to do that until the first draft is complete and I start editing.

I’ve found that short-story/novel-chapter critique groups can be detrimental to my novel-writing process. I am constantly resisting that inner voice telling me if I’m a serious writer, I should be producing at least one critique-ready short story or novel chapter a month. So I’m wary of engaging with a group that echoes that voice. Luckily, my critique group is very supportive.

Miriah Hetherington's dog

Teddy explains that there is no plot problem that cannot be helped by going for a walk.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Conclusion

NaNoWriMo 2015 is over. I ended with a word count of 25,400. So I failed to win NaNoWriMo. But, I’ve got the beginning of a novel so overall that’s a personal win for me.

Once it was clear that I was not going to “win” NaNoWriMo, it was really hard to keep going. To hit the 50,000 word winning target, you have to write 1667 words per day on average. In November my daily word count varied drastically, including seven days when I did not get to write at all. This is how it actually broke down:

Words added to novel vs number of days I hit that word count

Words added to novel vs number of days I hit that word count

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving forward, I’m setting a goal of 500 words per day (average) progress on finishing this novel. I should finish before Camp NaNoWriMo in April.

How did NaNoWriMo go for you?

NaNoWriMo 2015 update, day 15

It’s near the end of day 15, and my word count is 15,000. I have reached the point where I’m so far behind, catching up and making the 50k word goal is impossible. I’m kind of sad about that. But on the other hand, that realization is kind of freeing.

I have learned more lessons about what works for me.

marshmallow1Nov15

Lesson Five: I don’t have to write a chapter or scene in chronological order. My outline is not so detailed that I can jump around a lot. But I often falter at the beginning of scenes, trying to figure out how to start. There is something special about each scene and each chapter that I thought of first when I thought about what was happening at that point in the novel. The thing I’m most excited about writing. Now, I write that part first.

Lesson Six: I struggle to create new words when I’m feeling down, as is the case with a lot of writers I know. But this is NaNoWriMo, so the guilt shouts: I MUST WRITE WORDS anyway. So I tried… Yep, not productive at all. What I learned was that even when I’m not adding words, I can still make some progress. I can be figuring out stuff about my world. Everything from names of minor characters to important world building stuff (geography, economics, flora and fauna, etc.) And even though my word count doesn’t increase much, that little progress helps my state of mind.

Lesson Seven: NaNoWriMo makes the obstacles to writing SO MUCH more frustrating. I could probably double the length of this post by detailing everything beyond my control this month that has punctured my writing space ship and vented my writing time into vacuum. Suffice it to say, the frustration itself sucked the creativity right out of my soul. So I guess my lesson here is to give myself a break. Yes, I’m going to “fail” NaNoWriMo, since I won’t make the goal. On the other hand, I’m still making progress.

15,000 words on day 15 means an average of 1000 words per day. This is a rate that I think I can keep up even after November. The NaNoWriMo web site says “At This Rate You Will Finish On December 20”

I’m okay with that.

NaNoWriMo 2015 update, day 8

Here it is, day 8 of Nanowrimo. To be on target for getting to 50,000 words by November 30th, I should have written 13,333 words by now. I’m at 9000. Catching up is not impossible. Just improbable, for me.

flower_1Nov15

I am learning some valuable lessons about my writing process.

Lesson One: After midnight is not a productive time for me to write. Lots of people begin NaNoWriMo at 12:01am on November 1st. A friend and I decided to do that, even though we’d never tried it before, just because October 31st was on a Saturday this year and we could. At 11:30pm we were both ready for bed. Between 12:01 and 1am I got about 300 words. I definitely won’t be doing that again.

Lesson Two: My outline is extremely helpful. I am so happy I took the time to really think about the story beforehand. I am still changing as I go, but I am much more confident that I won’t write myself into a corner, or that a thousand story-threads won’t burst from one chapter like tiny spiders from an egg sac.

Lesson Three: I started NaNoWriMo intending to prioritize coherent words over abundant words. I knew that would slow down my word count. Today I went to a write-in and worked pretty consistently for four hours, and only wrote 1700 words. I’ve decided that I am okay with not “winning” NaNoWriMo this year. Finishing the first draft of my novel is what I really want to win.

Lesson Four: I am most productive outside of my home, without family and household chores to distract. I really do my best in a coffee shop. I bring headphones and even if someone next to me is having a loud conversation, I’m not bothered.

What have you learned about your writing process from participating in NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo 2015

Oidhche Shamhna shona dhuibh, a h-uile duine! (Happy Halloween night to you, everyone!) It’s October 31st, and that means…

NaNoWriMo novels are like mushrooms that spring up suddenly (or some better metaphor)

NaNoWriMo novels are like mushrooms that spring up suddenly (or some better metaphor)

 

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo starts at midnight tonight!

In 2011 I hit the 50k word goal, with a pile of words that had little to no hope of becoming a novel.

In 2012 I bailed halfway to write a short story that was eventually published (Green Salvage).

In 2013 I hit the 50k word goal, but my multiple storylines blew up like mushroom clouds. I plan to return to this one at a later time.

I did not attempt a nano novel in 2014.

So, here it is, the eve of NaNoWriMo 2015, and I’m doing it again. This will be the first time I have ever embarked on this challenge knowing in advance that I probably can’t hit the 50k word goal. There will be several days in November when I just won’t be able to write at all.

But I’m going to do it anyway. Because, I love the energy around NaNoWriMo. I enjoy going to local write-ins. I love the excuse to really concentrate on one project. I learn so much about myself as a writer and what works for me and what doesn’t. And this year I’m armed with an actual OUTLINE!

I also plan to post several blogs about my progress.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Why or Why not?

Lost in a Vacuum

I’m thrilled to announce that my darkly humorous short story, “Lost in a Vacuum,” is up on Evil Girlfriend Media (EGM) Shorts today.

This story was my most-submitted story so far. It found the perfect home at EGM Shorts on the 21st submission. I am delighted that the editor, Jennifer Brozek bought it!

Humor is very subjective to begin with, and there aren’t a lot of speculative fiction markets that welcome dark humor. So finding a home for it was tough. This was the first story that I believed in enough to keep sending out after multiple rejections.

Along the way, the story got an “Honorable Mention” call-out on the Allegory ezine website.

One editor was kind enough to respond with a personal rejection saying that a story about the death of a pet was not a fit for a humorous anthology. They had a good point. In fiction, killing a pet is usually considered taboo.

This creature sits on my desk and my have influenced Skittle's description

This creature sits on my desk and may have influenced Skittle’s description

So, I hope you read the story and that it makes you laugh.

Happy Writing ^_^

Writing Classes are the best

I try to go to writing classes when I can because I always leave with some new tools and a better understanding of my old tools.

At the end of June I got to attend the two-day writers workshop hosted by the Locus Awards about creating character, plot, and scenes. It was taught by Daryl Gregory the first day and Connie Willis the second day. Both halves of the workshop were all kinds of awesome.

Both Connie Willis and Daryl Gregory are fabulous teachers.

I just finished typing up my hastily scribbled notes from the class. I’m not going to share everything (that would be a very long post), but I will share a couple ideas that particularly generated ah-ha moments for me.

Inciting Incident
New-ish writers like me hear this over and over again – the story must start as close to the inciting incident (point where everything changes) as possible. Thou must not start with a bunch of backstory to set the scene. But even when I start in the middle of the action it’s hard to figure out exactly where to start and how to give the reader enough information to understand what’s going on.

I feel like I understand what this means a little better. The purpose of an opening scene is to hook my reader. My reader should want to learn more. My opening should raise questions in the reader’s mind to get them to keep reading. My story beginning should make the reader care about my character, so they care about whether or not the character gets what s/he wants.

Once my reader is hooked, then they will care about the character’s backstory and anything else they need to know to understand the rest of the story.

Dialog Scenes
Dialog is way more than just two characters chatting. It can and should be used for all kinds of heavy lifting to reveal plot and character. It never hurts to remind myself that characters should always want something. In dialog, the information conveyed by a character should move them toward their goal. Every speaking character wants something from the other character.

Learning from Material
When I look at my gigantic to-read pile, it’s hard to pick up an old favorite. I knew that reading favorite books and re-watching favorite films or TV shows – paying attention to everything that works and doesn’t work, and figure out why – would be educational. But I haven’t done it much. So right now I’m re-reading “Druss” by David Gemmell, one of my all-time favorite heroic fantasy novels.

These goats have learned to this pulley to pull the little bucket toward them and eat out of it.

These goats have learned to use this pulley system to pull the little bucket toward them and eat out of it.

Have you been to a good writing workshop lately?