Post NaNo Wrap Up And Planning For 2019

Well, so much for Blogmas!

Actually, I didn’t plan on doing Blogmas, so I’m not behind or anything, but I would like to post regularly on here again. I need to find a way to do so that isn’t as severe as every day, but not as wanting as every week.

I have been writing, though, just finishing up my NaNo work. I got about 10k more words in the last week, but I wasn’t as prolific as I wanted to be. It’s easiest to blame Husband being ridiculously sick, but it ultimately comes down to my own laziness. I did get to just about the end of the story. I have maybe three more chapters to go, but I’m leaving those to be done after the first edit/rewrite because I feel like once this is edited, there’s going to be some major plot doctoring/character changes that would significantly change this last set of scenes, so I’m just leaving the very ending open to whatever happens in the future.

Here’s a look at last week’s writing schedule finishing up The Omega (title likely to be changed):

It’s lackluster, I admit, but like every time I have a dip in my prolificness, it’s due to the outline not being well fleshed out! I reached just over 60k words total in this book’s first draft, which isn’t bad, and I’m guessing the final drafts will be somewhere around 70k and maybe 40 chapters (my goal is actually shorter chapters than I normally write as I’m looking to web-publish and I’ve read that due to the average shorter attention span, shorter chapters are the way to reader’s hearts which is hard for my normally verbose self).

So where do I go from here? Well, first The Omega needs to stew, so the file is being put away for at least a month. Before it gets completely shelved, I’m doing two things: writing out the skeleton, and consolidating my first draft notes.

The Skeleton — This is a new-to-me thing which is basically a bare bones (hence “skeleton,” get it?), post-draft/reverse outline. I’ve been keeping up with it as I go every few chapters and just finished it up today. It basically looks like this:

  1. Single sentence recap of the chapter
    • Important specific thing that may have happened
    • Other important specific thing that may have happened
      • Clarifying thing relating to character or story development if necessary

The numbers on the list relate to chapters, so I have as many header bullets as chapters, and up to three sub bullets each, but hopefully less. I want this to be incredibly brief, unlike the outline I create before writing, because the point of this will be to help me edit later (when did that happen? who was there?), and to help me see if too much or two little is going on in a chapter (I’ve already marked a few chapters that will need to be broken into two), or where I can successfully add or remove information or additional chapters.

First Draft Notes — These are major issues I encountered as I went. I wrote most of them in comments on the actual document using Google Docs, though some I listed on my skeleton. What I’m doing now is just quickly rewriting them at the head of my skeleton so they’re all in one document as their own little list. This way, when I go to do my edit, I can look over the issues I know I already have and be figuring out how to resolve them as I do a future read-through.

For instance, in the last third of the book, I reference and use telepathy pretty heavily. It’s not a major element earlier; however, I feel like it should be established and some ground rules should be laid for it early on so it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere later. Right now it feels like I’m using it as is convenient for the plot, but there have always been rules, I just haven’t framed them in any way for the reader, so I can see it feeling stupid and plot-holy later. This is something that, if I know about it as an issue when I do my first read-through, I can identify where I should be putting this information.

Beyond these two things, I’m hanging up my hat on phase one of The Omega project, which means tomorrow I enter phase two of the She’s All Thaumaturgy project! I have to say, I so badly miss this band of characters. While The Omega‘s characters are darker and broody (and that can be really self-indulgent and its own kinda fun to write), these guys were goofy as all hell and so much fun! I have so many ideas for that book, my heart is so full!

I’m going to try and follow Chris Fox’s editing technique, but I know VERY little about it right now, so tomorrow morning I’ll be watching his How To Edit videos and put that process to work first thing. December is going to be so busy.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 – Winning!

Well, shit, you guys, it finally happened. I’ve been a member of the NaNo website for almost a decade, I used the site to track for the past three years (though I competed more often than that), and finally, last night, I became a winner for the first time in the month of November. I did it!

Of course, the story is not complete, and I didn’t exactly stay on the schedule I’d hoped to, but I got 50k words on the page in 30 days. I DID THE THING!

I had some failures along the way, chiefly among them that I didn’t write every single day. I really did make an effort, even during busy days early in the month, I pulled out the computer and typed up a handful of words if for no other reason than to keep up the habit. Those hundred or so words were not particularly good, and they didn’t even pad the count, but they were a reminder of work to be done, and honestly they made me feel a sense of accomplishment. But I failed that on the first day of vacation! I wanted to hit 50k by the 20th because I knew I’d fall behind while in Ohio, but I fell behind ahead of schedule, so ya know, here we are.

But where we are is winning, so yeay! You can see I dropped back down to 15 minute sprints. Quantitatively, they’re more efficient, and they feel better, so I think I’ll continue this going forward.

Which brings me to where I take this which is through to the first week in December where I’ll just continue sprinting like it’s November to wrap up this story. I have the end plotted out (not as tightly as I’d like, but enough to get me there). When I finally get “the end” on the page, I’m going to finish up my skeleton (a very brief breakdown of the overall story by chapter) and make a short list of the issues I marked for myself to resolve in editing (currently they’re in the form of comments on the story document in Google Docs). This way, when I go to edit in a month or so, I’ll have my tools at the ready, and I won’t have to do a review before I review, if that makes sense.

My plan is the finish this up by December 7th (and if I can bang out 10k words over that time I’m fairly certain I’ll get there), then I’m going to binge Chris Fox’s editing videos before pulling She’s All Thaumaturgy out of hibernation to edit. This will be the first time I’m looking at the story since I wrote the first draft sprint-style back in July, so I’m nervous but excited. I expect it to be trash, but workable trash. That story isn’t complete, so after editing what I have (about 70% complete), I’ll pick up first-drafting the rest of it. I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go, but it’s the best I’ve got for now. I do think She’s All Thaumaturgy (title most likely to be changed) might just be the first book I ever query out to agents, so I get a little twitterpated when I think about it. Hopefully the prose and the story live up to my expectations.

I also bought a boatload of organizational things to keep myself on some kind of track going forward. I’ll probably blog about my planning goals sometime in December as I work through how I want to use these things. I love that false sense of having your life together that holding a planner in your hands gives you. I looked down at all my sticky pads and colored markers and I just said to myself, “Damn, future me, you are fucking organized. I cannot wait to be you, bitch!”

So yeah, NaNoWriMo 2018 has been one of my biggest successes ever, and it feels surreal. I mean, I’m happy about it, but I can barely believe it. What I can believe is how hard I fell behind on Vacancy and blogging in general. This is why I need to get organized: so shit doesn’t slip away from me! But on the flip side, things slipped away in favor of something good, not fucking off, not getting sad, not a fruitless endeavor, but a real project that–despite calling my “Embarrassing” project which is still true–I’m confident I’ll be self publishing possibly here before the end of 2019. And the world needs more stories, even if they are about vampires.

A Tiny NaNo Update At 40k Words

This is the letter you get at 40,000 words. It’s incredibly encouraging, for me at least. What’s especially funny though: I dyed my hair purple today for the first time in like four-ish months and the next scene I’m about the embark on literally is an awkward dinner.

The universe has opened up and screamed, “Ashley, finish this novel!”

I’m writing this on Monday night, but I’ll post on Tuesday. I’m hoping that I can poop out a fairly large number of words that day and possibly get another chunk written out in the car on Wednesday? Maybe I’ll even hand write some stuff and type it up that night. Anyway, we’re getting close, Dear Reader!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – 37,500 Words (75% Complete!)

Yesterday was the 18th, 60% done with the month, and 75% done with NaNo! Well, 3/4 of the way to the 50k word goal, at least. I’m feeling pretty good, very pumped to continuously be ahead of the word count, and super proud for spewing out words every day, even if some days that count is paltry at best. It’s building the habit that’s important right now. I do wonder, though, if when I’m editing I should continue some kind of daily first-draft-type writing and how to balance this kind of work with the more conservative, delete-heavy, stress-out-over-every-word work that editing brings.

So here’s the way the last week looked:

Almost 12,000 words in under a week is very exciting!

I’ve done a little writing this morning, so I’m a smidgen farther than this now, but I am behind my goal of 50k by the 20th, obviously (that would be a miraculous 12k in a day. I mean, not impossible, but not bloody likely). I’m in the hardest part of the book now which is the end bits. I’m just at the edge of the climactic arc (is that a thing?), and tying everything together. I’m really excited about this part in theory because I’ve been imagining it for quite a while, but the specifics are still too vague. Just more evidence that a well-thought-out and tightly constructed outline is the way to go before banging out a first draft.

Bumping up to 20 minute sprints, I’m not seeing the jump in word count that I should be. In fact, I’m doing worse. I averaged 469 words per 15 minute sprints which works out to 31.23 words per minute, but at 20 minute sprints I’m averaging 563 words which works out to a lower 28.15 wpm. It’s very close, and I find myself checking the timer during the 20 minute sprints, worrying I didn’t start it, so they feel longer and are clearly less productive. It may behoove me to jump back down to 15 minute sprints, but I perhaps haven’t given myself enough 20 minute sprints to get into the groove. Technically I’ve only done more than one 20 minute sprint a day twice so far, so I’ll give them a few more days to work themselves out–they deserve that, though I might be done by then!

I’m developing a better voice for my characters now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go humorous with this story, especially since I opened with a pretty dark scene, and I was trying to set up a world that was full of esoteric magic and walked the veil between life and death, but some of the concepts–like vampires and werewolves–just don’t feel right to me without an injection of self-awareness and whimsy. These characters by no means live in the same world as Vacancy, but their world can’t take itself that seriously. This does mean, though, a lot of editing is ahead of me, and finding a healthy balance between that eerie darkness that I love and recognizing that the word “fireball” is very silly.

And I’m still not sure what to do with this story when it’s edited and done. I contemplated self publishing, but that’s not an alternative to traditional publishing, it’s just a different road with a LOT of work behind it. I may release it by chapter on Wattpad, or maybe even here, or both! I hope that giving away some of my work for free will eventually develop me an audience for the future, but I also struggle with the idea that that devalues one’s work. Case in point: the 99 cent novel. I could write a whole ranty blog about that and still end on the note: I JUST DON’T KNOW.

Anyway, I’m headed back to the giant text file that Google Docs can hardly handle and am very hopeful that I’ll report #winning in a few short days. I’m headed out of state for the holiday soon, so I may get pushed out to the end of November, but I am determined. Happy writing, Dear Reader!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – 25,000 Words (The Halfway Mark!)

First 12,500 words.

Last night I hit 25,000 words, or 25,969 (nice) to be exact! I’m halfway there and though I’m a little bit behind my goal of hitting 50k by the 20th, I think I can still make it (especially if I keep on ignoring Vacancy).

There have been a few weird days, but also some really successful days. Even on the most busy of my days, I still made sure I sat down and banged out these micro-scenes that I was able to expand on afterwards. The habit continues, and I very much don’t want to skip a single day.

nano18 pt 2

As you can see I haven’t bumped up my sprint length yet, mostly because consistency hasn’t been my strongest suit. I did write in an actual Starbucks for a few hours, but that only garnered me 574 words total so a terrible word/hour rating. I have no idea how people do that. They must get some kind of thrill from being (what they think is) watched. For me, every voice and movement was distracting, and I couldn’t talk to myself as usual, so that’s not going to happen again! Also with someone with a tiny bladder, getting up to pee and leaving your stuff really isn’t an option in public every 15 minutes.

I’ve been writing a lot more in the evenings which works for me, but I don’t prefer it. I’d like to get my words done early in the day so that if I want to write in the evening, it’s just extra. I’ve been in a really terrible sleep cycle lately though, and it’s hella hard to break.

Also as expected, things are getting murky in the middle. I do a lot of second guessing around my characters’ motivations and their actions because I feel like they’re not well defined. A big part of my issue is “is it too soon in this relationship for this thing to happen?” and I think I need to hold a mirror up to myself here: I’m writing these guys so fast that I don’t know them, but they’re getting to know one another better and spending more time together in between the pages, than I am with them over these past 13 days. Does that make sense? Hopefully after putting this draft away for a bit then coming back to it will clear everything up for me.

I’m planning on a three month cycle after this–I hope! A writing, first edit, second edit cycle, working in new drafts every three months. I think that’s reasonable, but everything looks reasonable from the outside. It’s all theoretical now, so I’ll update on how it goes. I don’t even have enough drafts right now to make it happen, so it might be a two month cycle and maybe that makes more sense? How much time between drafts? Between first draft and final draft?

I’m struggling with all this because this strict plotting thing has been such a boon, but has also thrown off everything I thought I knew about writing and my own process. I thought it was intuitive–and don’t get me wrong, I think it largely still is–but if this, this massive thing, is something I’ve been doing so wrong (for myself) all along, what else has been wrong?

I guess November isn’t the time to consider all that anyway, for right now we must write! I’d like to really overachieve today, and half the day’s already gone, so off I go!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – First 12,500 Words

Fucking whoa.

So over the first five days of NaNo, I’ve averaged 2500 words per day (and I got Vacancy out on time, so what the fricking frick?) to get me to 12,554 words at the end of the day yesterday. Can yoU BELIEVE IT?

NaNo1801

Just a note: this story was one I came up with earlier in the year, mostly just for fun–I wasn’t ever sure I’d commit it to paper. I wrote out the first two-ish chapters just to see if it excited me a couple months ago, and it did. That’s those first 2801 words which I’m not including in my NaNo total.

The NaNo goal is 50k in 30 days, but my own personal goal this go around is 50k by the 20th which means I need to average 2500 words a day (check!) because holidays, but also because I know 50k isn’t enough for a complete novel, not this kinda anyway. That isn’t to say this will be some lofty story, it’s just more realistically going to be told in 75k – 85k words as most novels are, and I want to try and get all those words written within the 30 days.

During Camp NaNo I completed 50k words–and I felt great about it–but that was sorely short of the entire story. I lost steam at the end and didn’t finish the first draft while I was in that first draft headspace. I don’t want that to happen again.

But most of my writing is modeled in the same way as Camp NaNo: sprints and tracking all based on a very fleshed out plot. Nothing is set in stone, and this story could snake off into an entirely different direction, but it’s unlikely, and it’s a huge boon to have that outline and the scenes laid out so I can do a short review of what’s next right before starting the timer.

I went back to 10 minute sprints because I didn’t want to wear myself out at the onset (I haven’t done writing this intensively since July), and it worked. I’m up to 15 minutes again, and will probably bump it up to 20 in the next couple days and sail forward on those.

As for the story itself, I’m really into this one, but I’m concerned about character development and how a reader might connect with these guys. That’s probably because they’re not particularly complex right now and some of them–including the most important ones–are a little flat. The characters for my camp novel had bigger personalities and each had at least one overarching trait that made them unique, and if I ever got stuck writing them, I could fall back on that trait. This time the characters are more subtle, but maybe that’s just a fancy way of saying “boring.” That’s my main concern right now: get my love interests to stop being “generic boy and girl” and to start being compelling people who a reader will care about and root for.

But that’s not exactly the point of the first draft, that can come later if I can use this month to feel them out and just get their story down on paper. I find there are still times I second guess myself, but it’s a lot easier this go around to say “fuck it” and just keep slogging through. I know I can fix it later, and in fact I look forward to fixing it later because I really love editing. Some of today’s words are done, but there are still more to do. Keep on writing, everyone!

Why Do You Write?

Chris Fox, who I’ve written about before, posted a video recently asking this question: Why do you write? I love listening to videos and talks when I’m doing chores because it gets me in a creative mood, and this was no exception. It’s short and sweet and motivating.

Like most animals, humans are, I guess, compelled to pass on their genes. That or sex is just pretty nifty and babies are a natural outcome of copulation. Either way, I think it’s pretty natural to want to be remembered after we die. My experience in life has been that I am incredibly forgettable. I mean, the year I was born, my name ~Ashley~ was the second most popular, and still I have been called every other A-name under the sun. The likely hood of me being an Amber, Amy, Alison, Adrian, or Aaliyah is significantly lower than Ashley–AND STILL! I am just not memorable, and it’s been a little hurtful and embarrassing, reminding people of my name, how I know them, and just passively listening to them tell me the same stories over and over because they don’t realize that yes, we’ve met before, you blowhard!

Of course, I shouldn’t care, but it’s made me feel pretty insignificant most of my life (though it’s been less prevalent the older I get), so at least part of why I want to write is so I can leave something behind, something to be remembered by, a way to impact other lives. But I realize as I think over what that would be like, I kind of don’t care if people really remember me anywhere near as much as I just care that they get joy out of my work.

Like Chris mentions in his video, there are approximately two camps of people: the artists and the entertainers. I think I fall much more squarely in the entertainer category. Yes, I want to write good books, and I’d love if someone found a paragraph or a sentence that sounded like beautiful prose to them, but if I can bring someone joy, give them an escape from the drudgery and torment of life (not to be too dramatic, but you know) then I’ll have really felt like I’ve achieved something.

I also just want to see my name on a physical book in a bookstore. Hopefully by the time that happens Barnes and Noble will still be around, but I’d really just love to walk into one and see my name on the shelves, pick up a hard copy, flip through the pages, hold it against my chest and twirl around–you know, the typical things you do with books. I know it’s a very superficial thing, but it will certainly be a marker of “making it.”

And do I want to make money doing this? YES. OF FUCKING COURSE I DO. Will I ever be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling rich off writing? No, I will not be, that just isn’t in the cards–BUT I do think I can pull an upright seven of pentacles on this bitch if I work hard enough.

This is a great time, I think, to ask yourself this question if you’re doing NaNo. You’ve slogged through a few days, maybe you’re super pumped and ahead of schedule, maybe you’re super far behind and suffering from a block, maybe you’re completing the exact amount of words everyday and it’s going just fine, but contemplating your truth can only help you. And it’s not too late to start or to catch up right now. Hell, we were just given an extra hour by the universe and the American government–use those 60 minutes to poop out some words! Even if it’s a manifesto on writing, just do it.