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.

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!

Letting Your Writing Sit

I wanted to call this post “Take A Break From Your Writing” but sometimes people just read headers, and I’d be remiss, Dear Reader, if that’s all someone took away from this post. Everyone gets overwhelmed and burnt out at some point, and taking a break isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think I’d really ever suggest a true break from writing.

This post is actually about taking a break from a piece of writing. I find the longer between writing a first draft and returning to edit it, the more clarity I have. Over time, your own writing can become almost foreign to you. I have much less a problem crossing through and suggesting changes to others than I do with my own work, and when I put enough time between writing and editing, my own work begins to feel like someone else’s. Sometimes I discover the bad: “Who wrote this? It’s garbage!” but (less frequently) sometimes it’s good: “Wow, that dialogue was convincing!” I become less attached to specific words or phrases, or even scenes and characters, so I can make changes, even big sweeping strikethroughs and plot disruptions, divorced from my original love for whatever my past self’s fevered brain thought was good.

There is probably a break point where you become too detached, your style evolves too far from where you started, or your passion for the topic has been snuffed out, but I’m not sure where that is, or if I could even council others on where it might be for them. Stephen King suggests a minimum of a six week break for the first draft of a novel. Close the file and don’t open again for a month and a half. That’s probably a pretty solid time to clear your mind and heart of what you created and long enough to complete some other writing task (because, remember Dear Reader, don’t take a break from all writing, just this writing). I put a solid month between NaNoWriMo and editing the latest part of Vacancy and that felt like a good amount of time. Another couple weeks would not have hurt, and perhaps would have helped had Vacancy been longer or I had worked on it for more than a single month. (King also suggests no project should take you more than three months/a season. Good thing I live in Florida where it’s summer 90% of the year.)

What actually did help was finishing up Blogmas, which I considered a writing project, if not traditional fiction. Filling the time between vomiting thousands of words and heading back in to edit those words with vomiting other words that held a totally different meaning (non-fiction) with totally different parameters (no word length, just a daily requirement and a very loose topic) felt like a reset. I let go of Vacancy and didn’t have pangs of missing it, desire to edit it, or conversely dread for having to edit it later (probably the more likely feeling for NaNo-ers), that was all replaced with another project. Blogmas also gave me a little boost of confidence because I completed it and felt particularly successful doing so.

So I came back to Vacancy with a new excitement because I already felt so victorious over Blogmas, and a fresh set of eyes that weren’t already fed up with Moonlit Shores Manor or too in love with some trash sentence that I couldn’t bare to drop in the bin just yet. Editing now is easier than it would have been a month ago and, more importantly, more pleasurable. I normally really enjoy editing, but this go around has been particularly fun. And I owe it all to letting my writing sit.