Title Shenanigans

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Time for another mid-NaNo report!

I completed another couple scenes, bringing me up to 85% through the book. And we’re into the real fun now – without giving anything away, it’s all life, death, and explosions. Super fun!

To be honest, I was less productive than I hoped to be, but I have a few days off now and I should be able to make up some ground.

BUT, on one of my off days I figured out the titles for this trilogy!

First off, I chose the working title “Thieves of Moirai” because I thought “Thieves of Fate” was probably taken and I needed something to fill the gap while I came up with something better (search Moirai in Greek mythology to get the reference. I always knew it wouldn’t stick, ’cause it is secondary world with no Greece). But I think I’ll keep “Thieves of Fate” as the trilogy name. I searched it, and miracles of miracles, I can’t find any books with that title. Besides, it fits.

Now for the big reveal… drumroll… the first book of the Thieves of Fate trilogy is called… A CLIFF WITH NO EDGE. Don’t worry, when you read the book, you’ll understand how utterly perfect this title is. Not to sound conceited…

If you ask me in person, I’ll tell you the other two titles. I just don’t want to announce titles for projects I haven’t even started yet. Call me superstitious, I guess.

I’m terrible with titles. Mostly I stick with pretty straightforward statements. I mean, how creative is “King’s Mark” (speaking of, if you have a suggestion for a better title, I’ll take it). So having three that I’m really happy with is quite an accomplishment. I’ve been living in the glow for days.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Check back in December, I’ve actually got a few blog topics planned out, so I’ll be talking about stuff that isn’t all my projects. 🙂

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Short Update

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NaNoWriMo Day 10:

A tiny bit behind, but I’m celebrating what I can…

I am 70% through the Thieves first draft! Just under 3/4 of the scenes I planned are written!

My wordcount is a little low (about 40,000 right now), which means I’ll have to go back and add a bunch in, but regardless! Yay!

And that’s literally all I have to talk about today. I’ve got to get back into it, and try to catch up with my goal schedule. Right now I’m about a day’s worth of work behind.

The Official November Plan

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Since I’m not following wordcount goals this NaNoWriMo, I thought I should explain what my goals are. That way you can all keep me honest!

Essentially, I have 16 major scenes/plot points to hit before Thieves is done. Therefore, I must complete one scene/plot point every 2 days (at least). Since earlier means fresher, I’ve got 2 that I have to finish in the first 3 days so I can fit them all in.

I bought a big(ish) whiteboard/corkboard to keep track of all of this, and make sure my goals are right in front of my face.

Here it is: (btw, don’t try to read the cards if you don’t want spoilers!)

So far, I’m on track! Yay! And incidentally, just under the Nano official wordcount goal, so who knows – maybe I will hit 50,000!

In other news, this has been a week of organization. There are whiteboards everywhere :). I even got a little crafty and did my jewelry too:

They’re just wooden cross-stitch frames, with lace pulled over the inner hoop. That way I could hang my earrings and pins directly on the lace. I had to glue cork to the inner hoop in order to attach my bracelets and necklaces with pushpins. Simple, and hopefully more usable than my previous stack of little cases.

And last, in case you see me around in the next month, I’ve got a walking boot on.

Turns out I’ve been walking on my feet too much. Or something. So now I’ve got to wear this boot thing and not walk around so much, at least until it heals. Ugh. Though on the good side, maybe boredom will force me to be more productive on the Nano front… especially since I’ve also canceled my Netflix for the month.

This NaNo

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I have officially decided that I will be participating in NaNoWriMothis year! And I’ve also decided exactly what I’ll be writing.

If you’ve been around since last year, you’ll know that last November I won NaNoWriMo (wrote a 50000 word novel in a month). As I mentioned in my Post-NaNo Report, I learned a few things, primarily that the crazy, slapdash, get-the-words-out pace of NaNo is not the most effective writing method for me. All I did was create 50,000 words of incomprehensible disaster. I wasn’t certain at the time that I would be participating again.

But there are some reasons that draw me back to NaNo this year. It is fun to be part of such an effort along with so many other amazing people. And there is something about a crazy public goal that brings out my competitive determined side. And let’s face it – writing is usually a pretty lonely endeavor. NaNo is anything but.

So I’m going for it again this year, though I’m not starting an entirely new story. My goal is to finish Thieves. Whether it takes 50,000 words or 20,000 words, if I finish the story I will consider this year’s NaNo a success.

My problem with writing too fast is that it takes me a while to develop a story to the point I can write it. Without the percolating time, anything I try to do turns into more of a hot mess than usual. The benefit of finishing Thieves is that I’ve been developing it for nearly a year. This past weekend I finished developing and outlining the second half of the story. I’ll be able to focus on just writing it from here on. Or that’s the plan. We’ll see how it turns out 🙂

If you write, have written, or want to write “someday,” then I hope you’ll pick up your pen this November and join in. It’s a super fun and super valuable effort. And there’s never going to be a better or worse time than right now.

Post NaNoWriMo Report

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Well hello faithful reader! We meet again.

I am not dead. Nor have I fallen into insanity, although some of you may have expected it. I have survived and won NaNoWriMo, successfully completing 50,000 words in 30 days. And here is my badge to prove it:

I am proud to join the ranks of NaNo winners. It was not easy, especially since I had several roadblocks and ended up significantly behind by the beginning of the second week. November became a banner month for me – I began the month by finishing and sending out King’s Mark to beta readers and ended it with 50,000 words and a submission to the Fairwood Writer’s Workshop that I am fairly pleased with. I am exhausted, but in a good way… it is amazing how energizing that level of work can be. It reminds me of busy summer shifts at work, where I hardly notice 8 hours have passed because every moment has been completely filled. You can’t keep up the pace forever, but thankfully summer turns into winter and November comes but once a year.

It was not as difficult as I expected to pull 1667 words daily; in fact, I found that I can easily manage 2000 words in about 90 minutes of writing time. Considering my pace previous to November was about 3000 words a week, this amazes me.

However, I don’t think that writing NaNo-style is a good fit for me. About 45,000 of my 50,000 words are useless without being completely rewritten. So I will keep my NaNo novel, in case someday I have the desire to put in the incredible amount of work it needs. But until that day it will live in the deepest, darkest corner of my computer.

Rewriting is necessary for all successful books, I’m not exempt from that. I cannot create a perfect first draft, or even second draft. Nor should I try to, lest I suck all the creativity out of my work. But while writing this month I indulged in all of my worst habits just to make word count – excessive exposition, navel-gazing, repetition, and interminable internal monologues. Maybe it is my training as a musician, and a dancer before that, but I believe that when you are practicing something, you should strive for it to be the best you can make it. Practicing something “wrong” will only ingrain it deeper and deeper into your mind and your habits. I believe in striving for quality in each stage of production, and that isn’t what NaNo is about.

But it was not a waste of time. Not at all. I discovered the ability to write in greater quantity, to write daily (or almost daily). I proved that I can start another project, that I’m not out of ideas. And I confirmed that I am a discovery writer, and I shouldn’t panic about these things.

Most importantly, I actually managed to turn off my internal editor while I was writing. One of my defining personality traits is the drive to continually improve, to never accept the status quo, to never give in and say “good enough.” This can be a good thing – it is what drives me to problem solve, to think rationally and creatively, to seek and absorb knowledge that might help me along the way. I like this about myself; but like all traits, it brings its own challenges as well. Perfection can never be obtained, which means constantly striving for it can either set you up for failure or paralyze you. You might look at the daunting road to perfection and be overwhelmed, curled in a corner trying not to look at it. Or you can trap yourself in a cycle where you are never satisfied, never at peace, unable to feel good about your past accomplishments because you are already looking to your next challenge. I must constantly struggle to maintain a balance so I don’t fall into these traps, and I frequently fail to do this (note the perfectionism in that sentence… lol, I’m hopeless).

NaNo was a step in a positive direction. I was able to just write, to be happy about writing, and I did surprisingly little agonizing over what I was writing. Sure, I didn’t end up with much useable material, but I remembered what it is like to write for the sake of writing, to make up a story to see how it ends. And maybe I’ll read it in a year or two and realize that I’m being to hard on it, and it is really a best seller in disguise. Although I doubt it, I’ll give myself the leeway to leave that option open for now. Will I do NaNo again next year? Possibly, possibly not. I like taking my time while writing, I find it more rewarding and I like the results better, but maybe I will need a diversion to throw my inner editor off the trail for a month. We shall see.

So, when all is said and done, I officially label this experiment a SUCCESS!

Book Review: The First Five Pages

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Finished “The First Five Pages” by Noah Lukeman this week, in between bouts of editing and NaNo writing.

For me, this is one of the more helpful books I’ve read. Despite its name, it is more about upping your overall writing game than about the first few pages of a novel. The truth is, people who assess your manuscript can dismiss you pretty fast, so you do have to be careful early so you don’t lose them before you have a chance to strut your stuff. But if you only have a few pages of good work, they’re going to be that much more irritated when they realize you had the capability to do a great job but didn’t put the time in to make your whole manuscript awesome.

Noah Lukeman sets out some concrete ways that agents and editors assess a manuscript. As an agent/editor himself, he describes the 19 things that mean automatic dismissal, from stilted dialogue to poor use of comparison. He does spend time discussing how to solve each problem, but he is up-front that writing is an art, and solutions are often up to the creativity of the writer. Still, if you cannot identify the problem, you cannot bend your creativity to finding a solution, and I found this book an extremely helpful tool for identifying weaknesses in my manuscript.

It isn’t a book that will keep you motivated as you draft – in fact, I probably picked a bad time to read this, because NaNo is not the time to start worrying about quality. It really shoots you in the foot word-count-wise.

But when it’s time to edit, or you need to uncover the issues that are making your scene fall flat, “The First Five Pages” should be helpful.

Under construction

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So… the revision is taking longer than I’d hoped.

I keep wanting to do word and sentence-level editing, which is not the purpose of this part of the process. I need to add paragraphs, change scene POV, and add a couple chapters. I’ve known about most of the changes for months now, but it isn’t as simple as just writing the new stuff. Everything impacts everything else, as each change must carry through the rest of the book and be properly set up. Plus I keep coming up with small changes (and some not so small changes – apparently I need to research iron age Israelite architecture…) that I think make the story better. I have to finish all of that, and then I can start the full read-through and sentence-level polish.

I am sure this will all coalesce into a much better effort than my earlier drafts, but I probably won’t be sending my next version to my beta readers until October, a month later than I was hoping for. Ah well.

In completely different news, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year! This will be my first year to participate.

I know what most of you are thinking – you crazy person, you just wrote a book, and it took 10 months (and counting)! Why are you committing to jump right into another? And to finish it in one month? Plus, don’t you know about all those staffing changes at work that basically mean you get no days off until you die?

Or maybe you’re not thinking about it at all, since no-one reads my blog except people from Germany, Thailand, and Israel searching for baby weasel pictures (Guttentag! Shalom, boker tov! I don’t know Thai! And now that I think about it, it’s weird that I know the other two!).

But here is my reasoning. I need to start writing something different to get myself to move on from King’s Mark, and that is not as simple as it sounds. I want to write, but I get myself bogged down about what to write about. I’ll think about it a lot, vague ideas floating by in mass quantities, but none of them particularly creative. I’ll think of lots of character knots (which is where I tend to start stories) but no plot will unfurl before me, so I’ll dismiss these ideas. Historically, this will go on for years, with nothing written except a couple pages detailing a particularly interesting character knot that stalled out because I had nothing to do with it.

What I learned from writing King’s Mark is that I am a discovery writer and not an outliner. However much my neurotic organized brain wants to outline and have things all laid out before I begin, that’s not how it works for me. Trying to do that is how I get bored before I even start, and then a promising story seed is dead, baked dry under the glare of my analytical, self-critical mind. I need to jump and trust that I’ll be able to write a landing before I splat at the base of the cliff.

I think I’m just not practiced enough at taking that jump, because sitting down and actually starting another project is incredibly daunting right now. I get this queasy feeling in my stomach that shouts No! I’m Not Ready! every time I try. NaNoWriMo will help me with that. First, I will be forced by the sheer enormity of the task to sit there and write without agonizing, which will hopefully overcome the paralyzing fear of starting again. That’s the whole point of NaNoWriMo – to just write, not to think about how good it is or how hard revision will be. It is an exercise in accepting that one’s first draft will always be extremely flawed, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write it. Second, my left-brain is satisfied because I have a plan and a schedule – I can now allow plot and character ideas to simmer for the next month and a half without poking at them constantly to see if they are ready yet.

And last, I’ve always wanted to do a NaNo, but I’ve always felt that the speed and pressure would take the fun out of the writing. I don’t believe that any more. If you allow yourself to do it right, speed and pressure take the unreasonably high standards out of writing and allow you to enjoy it. Writing is like jumping in an enormous mud puddle – if you try to do it neatly, it won’t be much fun. If you take your boots off and wallow in it, you’ll remember why you were willing to deal with the dirt and the soggy underpants when you were a kid.

There is a ‘high’ you get from writing that you just can’t get any other way. It is different for each writer, but from everything I’ve read, everyone encounters that same phenomena, or they stop writing. It’s that rush when the perfect plot element clicks into place while you’re driving home from work, or when you see an incredibly vivid setting just before you fall asleep (and you subsequently get up and write for an hour just to be sure you’ve captured it), or you make up some minor cultural element on the fly that resounds and is probably the coolest thing you ever thought of. But none of these things come out of thin air, although they seem to at the time. They come about because you created a story that had some kind of hole in it, and you left that hole alone while your subconscious started sorting through piles of ideas until it finally found the right one. You can’t get your subconscious to work on the amazing bits and pieces that make stories incredible unless you 1. are flexible enough to accept them when they come, even if they change the whole story, and 2. have a framework that displays the shape of the hole clearly enough to clue your subconscious in. In other words, you have to write, and you have to write imperfectly!