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.

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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!

Camp NaNoWriMo: 20k Words, Obstacles, and Achievements

Well, it’s Thursday and my post today should have been a Vacancy podcast, but I did not get that done this week! I have had quite a busy past few days, but with what is unimportant, it would all be excuses anyway. The fact of the matter is, I failed at keeping up with the cast, but I DIDN’T FAIL WITH MY WORDS SO FUCK YEAH!

I’m right on schedule with Camp NaNo with 20,737 words completed. The day 12 goal is 19,354 so I’m chugging along nicely overall, but on the micro-scale I’m not quite as pleased with my progress, or lack there of. Let’s take a look and evaluate shall we? (If you’re confused by anything in the below chart, take a look at my first 10k eval for more info.)

camp 2

So right off the bat you can see there are fewer sprints here, but a longer sprint time (all but the first are 15 minutes as opposed to the 10 minutes I was doing before), but I did accomplish the same amount of words.

First 10K took 426 minutes or 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Second 10k took 352 minutes or 5 hours and 52 minutes (not including the two “all days” which were trash anyway so forget those!).

There are a number of possible reasons for this including that I’m getting back into the swing of writing or I’m getting more comfortable with the plot and characters, but I’m fairly certain that there is actually just more value in a longer sprint. I find myself writing slightly less intensely during the 15 minute sprint, and take a moment sometimes to think, but I started out consistently putting out more than 1.5x the words of a 10 minute sprint. Admittedly I fell off the wagon a bit on the 9th, but extenuating circumstances, people!

The story itself is getting more complex now, and over the last week I bumped into my first real “uh oh, I dunno what’s going on here” part. I have a few scenes with the antagonists that I am skipping for now as I’m not exactly sure how I want them to play out, but our main characters’ quest also has a couple holes I’m needing to fill in. Having the mostly fleshed out plot, though, has been a real godsend: if I ever really get stuck I can just move on, but having this map to follow, knowing where I came from and where I’m going, makes filling in the little path from A to B even easier.

One thing I’m not sure is actually improving, though, is the state of the prose. I know this is a first draft, and I’m okay with it being word vomit, but I’d hoped it would improve a bit as I went on. I’m not sure that’s happening, but I am pleased with the dialogue which I always felt was my strongest suit.

Tomorrow will be my first full day at home in a week, so I’m hoping that I can knock out a whole lot of words and set myself up for greatness to come. My characters are really getting into the thick of it now too, so I’m pretty pumped about where they’re going. Bonus: I’ve used the word “fuck” five times so far, four of which all happen within the same couple lines, so here’s a little sneak peak which will no doubt make absolutely no sense out of context:

“To fuck the king?” The twins looked at one another with mounting confusion.

“To fuck Quilliam, I gather.”

“Please don’t talk about my sister fucking anyone,” Voss pinched his nose and closed his eyes, “It’s bad enough she’s been fucking my best friend.”

Like I said, they’re not all great words, and some of them aren’t even good ones, but at least four of them are fucking superb.

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