A NaNoWriMo Confidence Boost

It’s over! November 2017 is done and dusted. THANK GOODNESS. With the 30th came my sixth consecutive win of the official NaNoWriMo. It was, by a long shot, the hardest year yet and I’m going to need a few days to recover. I never got that safety buffer and every day felt like a real struggle.

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Between my current situation and the addition of family visits, plumbing problems and a whole dental saga (really, wow) it has been an uphill battle from day one. But I have succeeded. It’s one of the few things I can cling to right now as an achievement. NaNoWriMo certainly isn’t for everyone, and even if it is something you try, if you write any words at all you’re still a winner really. The whole point is to get words on a page and not to discourage people for being unable to hit some arbitrary number within a month.

That said, after everything this year and everything else that’s happened this month, getting that 50k was a big boost for me. One thing after another has just been a defeat after defeat after defeat. I really needed a win on something. Anything. And I’ve got it. So now I’m going to cool it on the writing for the weekend and then, on Monday, Through the Black revisions begin.

It’s on. March 31st, here I come. I’m gonna be ready for you.

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NaNo Reflections

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Another NaNo down! And I won (just) for my fifth consecutive year. This was the closest I’ve cut it that I recall but I made it in the end. And, as I was doing a rewrite of the very project that got me into writing again after my long, university induced hiatus, there was a lot of cringing along the way. Really.

On the positive side, it let me see that I’ve improved a huge amount at writing over the past five years. I already mentioned just how many words I was cutting in my progress post and that trend continued. At least six full scenes got completely binned, as well as others getting merged and whole paragraphs of absolutely nothing being skipped as well. There was so much superfluous, unnecessary and boring guff in there. There’s also the prose itself which is, in my opinion, miles better than the original even in its NaNo-form. If I ever get to the stage where I can edit this it might even become readable!

Practice really is the key to anything. I’m so much happier with my writing now than I ever have been – and I know there’s still massive space for improvement. I still don’t consider myself “good” (but will I ever?) but I’ve come leaps and bounds. It makes me so glad that I’ve stuck with it, even through the low moments. It’s like with art – I would love to improve at it but I always get disheartened when I try. Things never work out the way I’d like. I stumble and struggle and eventually end up taking long, substantial breaks from it and every time I do I end up back at square one. It needs a lot of time and a lot of practice. Unfortunately time isn’t something I have in abundance.

The only difference with writing is that I’ve stuck with it even through the hard times. From scenes I just couldn’t write, things that sounded awful, bad plots all the way to crushing beta feedback and rejections. Time and practice has brought me to where I am today. And I’m happy with where that is, even though I hope to keep improving as I go. If you love something and want to get good at it, stick with it. No matter the setbacks. Keep at it. Some people say you need to write every day but I don’t think that’s true. Just keep it regular and don’t let your skills slide.

Now if only I had more time for art too!

NaNo 2016 Week 1

NaNoWriMo is a go! This year I settled on my WIP War of the Heavens. Originally I had planned to pick up from where I left off but I decided that since it needed such extensive rewrites I would just start from scratch. This way I can just carry on and hopefully not have such a huge disjoint once I’ve got the draft finished. It’s quite funny, rather against the spirit of NaNoWriMo the overall word count relative to the point I’m at in the original version has been cut by 36.6 %. Which is quite mind boggling really. There was a lot of superfluous guff in there. It’s also quite the relief to be honest as the original version was on track to be another 200k plus manuscript if it continued along the trajectory it was on. Yikes!

After my last post I was umm-ing and ahh-ing as to whether or not I should even attempt NaNoWriMo this year but I decided that I didn’t want to let the negative in my life effect the things I love. It’s worked out well because I’ve started a new job which is far better for my health. I think I might actually get my 50k this year, despite insisting to myself that I will be super casual about it. (Which is still the case – if things start getting rough I’m not going to make myself sick worrying about it!) I’m living closer to the line than I think I ever have but I’m still on track!

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Through the Black is of course still top priority and going smoothly. If you’ll direct your eyes to the widget on the right, you’ll see things are getting excitingly close now. I’m twenty pages away from having all paper edits done, then it’ll just be plugging in the changes to Scrivener. That is, until I do my final read through and decide I hate everything all over again. Ahhh, the writer’s life!

How are you all doing?

Suddenly September

Suddenly it’s September. How on Earth did that happen? I have no idea but it’s terrifying. We only have two months before the madness of NaNoWriMo starts again and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to work on. I have so many open projects that I don’t want to start a new one and make the pile even bigger. What I’d like to do this year is work on a draft of something I’ve already started and, as I generally use NaNo events as a break from my main projects, I won’t be looking at Twyned Earth.

The three projects currently fighting for my attention are The Fishperer, One Dead Prince and War of the Heavens. Each has their pros and their cons.

The Fishperer is the shortest of the projects and I have a pretty much complete rough draft. Choosing this one is the quickest path to getting another MS that I wouldn’t be horrified to show anyone. I’m worried the story is a bit naff but I love the world and the characters are, in my opinion at least, hilarious.

One Dead Prince has the benefit that I’ve been working on it most recently so a lot of its issues are fresh in my mind. It’s neatly spilt into four sections, each of which is roughly 50k words so I could aim to edit one of them. The only issue is I’d have a lot of work on the build up to November as I’d need to re-read and make extensive notes on 215,000 words to know what I needed to do to it. It’s a big and very messy draft in need of a lot of attention.

Finally there’s a project I’ve not spoken about very much recently but that’s not for a lack of passion for it. Somehow it just always seems to get nudged out by something else. War of the Heavens is the project that first got me back into writing as I was in my last year of university and as with ODP it’s a big one. However unlike the other two this one still doesn’t have a complete rough draft, which means I’d get to do some actual writing done instead of just editing. Given how most of the year has been spent working on edits, it’s a very tempting thought. It also wouldn’t take as much prep work as either of the other two as I already have chapter plans typed out.

Right now, I’m leaning towards War of the Heavens because that poor project has been pretty neglected over the last couple of years. Plus, as I was half way through transferring it to Scrivener last time I looked at it, it’s in a bit of a state so it’s really about time I fixed that. I’ve still got a few weeks before I need to start prep anyway. Let’s just hope I don’t get stuck by a dreaded Shiny New Idea like I did last year.

Are you starting to think about NaNoWriMo this year? What plans, if any, have you cooked up?

March 2016 Progress Report

We’re into the third month of the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. The days have been running away from me faster than I can make good use of them. It’s been a really rough start to the year but a lot of the sources of stress have been dealt with now so hopefully this quiet period keeps up a bit so I can get down to some serious work.

So in spite of everything how has the writing been going, you ask?

Twyned Earth edits had a bumpy start due to Chapter 2 being a gargantuan struggle. There was a lot of change and problems needing ironed out. That said, I am now 19 % done and am on track with my plan to have one chapter completed every two weeks. If I manage to stick to this, I will have revised all chapters by mid September and I can go back and look through my changes as a whole and make sure everything works. After that will be the print out stage, where I’ll go through it line by line with a pen. One final read through and Beta Bothering Round 2 commences! Exciting.

Twyned Earth isn’t my only plan for this year, though it will be the priority and as such no other projects are getting goals set in stone.

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on my One Dead Prince novel over several Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, using one month to write one 50k word section (don’t even mention the cuts I’m going to have to make to this poor thing). Well, I’m currently at three out of four sections done, and I’d really like to have this rough draft finally finished just so I can put it out of my mind. This year I’m thinking that instead of doing it during one of the camp events I will split it over both, doing 25k each month to put less pressure on myself and not detract too much from Twyned Earth. Of course, if I’m behind on my main editing project, poor One Dead Prince will be getting left to sit for another year.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I can sometimes find it hard to work totally on one project without getting totally burnt out. That’s why I like to have a side project I can pick up to clear my head a bit. Normally that’s to do with world building or plotting, but this year I think I will try to focus my excess efforts on my Deconstructor story (once I’ve done a scene by scene plan for ODP Part 4). This project has sort of snuck up on me and really isn’t too far, relatively speaking, from being beta ready. I don’t know if I’ll be sending it out any time soon but it would be nice to have something else shuffling towards the mythical “Complete” stance on my project spreadsheet. It’s really important to me to get the next draft of TE finished, so not only is working hard on it important but avoiding burnout is essential. If I just so happen to eke another project within visual distance of the finish line then all the better!

So that’s where I’m out. How are your projects going? Have you hit the ground running this year or are you, like me, slowly building up steam?

NaNoWriMo the Teacher

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that you always learn things. Whether that is the names and shapes of different types of blades, how to deal with head trauma or the problems associated with marine mammals’ blowholes, it teaches you things. Things about the way things work, things about yourself, things about writing. You write. You practice. You research. You learn.

I won NaNoWriMo 2015 writing a Waterworld inspired high fantasy about bounty hunters, and it taught me just how much of our everyday language is gendered. In this still currently unnamed world (I am rubbish at naming things), the language is gender neutral apart from pronouns – chosen from three as part of a coming of age ritual – and archaic royal titles. It was actually a lot more limiting that I thought it would be and made me realise a few things.

 

1.) We use gender to talk about people a lot. You would think that, as someone who perhaps considers gender more often than most, I would have noticed this. To an extent I had but when it came to completely removing gendered terms I realised how reliant on them I continued to be when I wrote. I had to learn to avoid writing that “a man had entered the room” and come up with something new – something that sounded good and flowed without being forced. Even in speech, characters would say things like “aww man” and that would have to go.

2.) Trying to sound informal and gender neutral can be tough. “Oh, there was some guy asking about you.” A perfectly normal and casual sounding sentence. The structure is familiar and commonly used, at least where I’m from, but when changing the “guy” to “person” it loses a lot of the formality. These types of switches worked well enough in the prose but when it came to dialogue things became tricky. Instead with the sentence above, I found myself altering much more than that in order to accommodate both of these essential requirements – gender neutral and informality. Of course, in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo there was often a far simpler solution that I couldn’t see at the time (“Oh, there was someone asking about you.”) but it got me thinking about language and how we use it, which I think is the point.

3.) Even some ungendered things are gendered. No, you read that right. This novel is set in an ocean world and it took me until twenty thousand words to realise that the word “fishermen” didn’t fit the setting. An easy thing to fix, just changing it to fishers, but I was still impressed (okay, so more annoyed) that it had slipped past me after I had been so meticulous with other very similar words. To myself though, it is just so ingrained into my mind as the word for “people who fish.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard anyone say either fisher or fisherwomen. When it comes to fishing, fishermen generally means everyone. This could be regional, of course. I was at university before I learned that “jamp” wasn’t actually a word. The point is that this term that would never had existed in this world slipped in because it was so normalised to me that I never spotted it. And it wasn’t the only one. I know now that I will have to be exceptionally attentive when it comes to revisions.

4.) I had it easy. I speak English, just about. I am, very slowly and poorly, trying to teach myself French. I’m awful at it. Just dire. But I’m trying, so that’s something. In French, everything is gendered. Apples, for example. Why are apples gendered? I don’t know. I also don’t know how one would even attempt to set a novel in a gender neutral world with a language that works in this manner. For personal reasons, I find this part of the language stressful enough. Just the idea of trying to figure out how to make it neutral and legible makes my head spin. There could be a way, for all I know. Like I said – I’m still learning and moving slower than an escargot. All I know for now is that I had it easy!

 

I hope everyone else’s NaNoWriMo adventures were as fun and fruitful as mine or, if you didn’t NaNo, that you just had an awesome November. I have two and a half chapters of the Fishperer left to write and then I will be cracking on with the dreaded Through the Black revisions.

If you took part in NaNoWriMo this year, what weird and fun things did your novel teach you?

 

The Verdict is in!

So, you may remember my last post where I put forth a poll to decide which idea I should follow through with for this year’s NaNoWriMo and, after having to call in a friend to smash down the tie breaker, there is a verdict!

This year, my NaNoWriMo project shall be…

*drum roll*

The Deconstructor! The tale of a serial killer and the revelations a copy cat killer brings about.

Okay, so I have my story. Now comes the tough bit – time to start planning! Now, I already know the basic plot. I know how this story starts and I know where it ends up. I just need to straighten out that wibbly bit in the middle. I’m really looking forward to this – not only am I excited by the concept but for so long I’ve just been writing my Twyned Earth series and I think a break from that will give me fresh eyes to go back and look at it properly. I am very close to having finished the final book in the trilogy which means editing time! And I think we all know that editing and fresh eyes go together like me and marshmallows. Oh yes. That’s pretty darn well.

I have a pretty intense October coming up. I really want to have Book 3 finished before the start of NaNo so that I don’t lose my flow for the final scenes. I also have a fairly intricate Halloween costume to craft and a novel to plan before October 28th. Oh, and Pokemon X is coming out on the 12th. Yes, Pokemon is high on my list of priorities. Don’t look at me like that.

So, if you don’t hear from me in a while – you know why!

Is anyone else doing NaNo? Have you got your stories picked out yet or are you going to see what you dream up on October 31st?