Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

#NaNoWinner2016 Finally

On the 23rd, I finally finished my ninth NaNo this year. That’s the longest it’s ever taken me, and more than twice as long as my previous longest (10 days). But I still finished.

And here’s why it took so long. I’ve already discussed the beginning of the month. Now, the end.

On November 17th, at about 2am, my father passed away in our home from complications of prostate cancer. He spent about four weeks in hospice care. As you might imagine, this impacted my ability to write. I needed two days to recover from just the loss of sleep that night.

2016 NaNoWriMo Wordcount Stats. Conveniently with a minimal number of numbers.

Thank goodness I don’t make productivity bar graphs all the time.

To finish NaNo, I had to set aside Spirit Knights 4 in favor of some short stories I plan to submit to various places. For some reason, a series of books about death are hard to work on right now. Go figure. My wordcount also sputtered after I crossed the magical 50k line, as it often does.

If you’re still reaching for the finish line, keep on truckin’. You have two more days. If you’re nowhere near finishing, keep on truckin’. You have the rest of your life. If you’re already finished, keep on truckin’. When one story ends, another begins.

For my Spirit Knights fans, I still anticipate releasing book 4 in time for Norwescon (mid-April). As far as I’m concerned, four months is plenty of time to write and release a book, and it’s half done already. And while you’re waiting, audiobooks for this series are a thing! Girls Can’t Be Knights released earlier this month, Backyard Dragons releases in early December, and Ethereal Entanglements is on schedule for an early January release. With luck, book 4 will release simultaneously with its audiobook.

For my The Greatest Sin fans, we’re expecting to get book 5 out by June. We’re also working on audiobooks for the first four, and hope to begin releasing those in 2017. We’ll probably catch up to release both print and audio at the same time with book 6. If you’ve read and loved them, please take a minute to leave a review.

For my Maze Beset fans, stay tuned for short story news! And if you want a fresh short story from me, regardless of the ‘verse it resides in, I’ve been published in a few anthologies this year: Into the Woods, Merely This and Nothing MoreUnnatural Dragons, and Artifact.

Weirdest #NaNoWriMo Ever #amwriting

For the first time since I started doing NaNo in 2008, it’s the middle of the month and I’m not up to 50k yet. Everyone tends to expect me to reliably churn out 50k in a week or less, because that’s what I always do. Except this year.

It started well. I slapped down 5k a day, which is less than my usual NaNo, but a healthy amount. Then came Jet City Comic Show on the first weekend. I hadn’t expected to write much during the show, and I didn’t. I did expect to be able to pick it back up and churn at my usual pace on Monday.

The end of Daylight Savings Time messed me up this year. I guess I’m getting old or something. Then the election invaded my brain no matter how hard I tried to shut it out. I’m still roiling on the inside about my dad. I’m now worried for my LGBT friends and family, my son has taken the election results quite poorly for a variety of reasons, and I’m concerned about the future for my daughter, who is autistic, needs extra supports, and will be transitioning out of school soon.

Reading about attacks on various marginalized/minority groups has been disheartening to say the least. Watching people try to incite riots has been distracting. I stood at the bus stop with my son and faced a dozen middle-schoolers who are terrified about the election results and had to tell them the world is not ending when I’m not so sure it’s true.

Perhaps this should be obvious at this point, but I did not support Trump. I don’t like vague ideas over concrete plans. I don’t like putting people down over raising them up. I don’t want to make America great again. My idea of the future doesn’t involve bringing back the past. Every mistake we make is a lesson to be learned, not a blueprint to be followed.

That said, if you supported Trump, you’re not my enemy. I’m a citizen and a patriot. I don’t hate people for disagreeing with me. I don’t hate people for having different ideas or beliefs. Hate is the path to the Dark Side, and however much I may joke about having cookies, I am, in truth, a member of Starfleet*. In the Federation, we strive to understand and accept everyone. Bring hate to my ship, though, and I will kick your ass out the airlock.

And now, I’m plunking away, just trying to finish Ghost Is the New Normal by the end of the month. I’m not in a bigger hurry because that won’t help anything. I’m taking time to do the things that make me happy. This week, instead of being all NaNo all the time like I normally am in November, I’ll go see Doctor Strange, watch the TV shows I like, get some extra exercise, and make a pumpkin cheesecake for my mom. I’m going to figure out where I’m donating for this holiday season too.

For all my fellow NaNoers, keep on keeping on. If you’re stuck, write about how this past week or so has made you feel. If it’s writing, it counts.

*Ha! Nerd yoink!

One Day More #NaNoWriMo

It’s Halloween. Around my house, this is also known as The Day Before NaNo. Tomorrow, I’ll grind out words. Today, I have to do all the things that come before grinding out the words.

My handy pre-NaNo checklist:

  • Cut all finger- and toenails. Consider painting them, then realize I only have glitter nail polish, which is super-distracting while typing.
  • Rewrite the outline that I just now realized is dumb.
  • Prep the document.
  • Tell my kids I’ll see them in a month.
  • Sign off Facebook. Alas, not forever.
  • Stare out the window for fifteen minutes so I remember what it looks like outside.
  • Tie off all other pending projects, either by completing or just finishing the current chapter, so I can focus on the three I’ll be working on for NaNo.
  • Wish I could take down the Halloween decorations today instead of taking up precious NaNo time to do that tomorrow.
  • Make sure I have a clear path between my beanbag and all of the following (may or may not intersect): my bed, the kitchen, and the bathroom. Front door is optional.
  • Remind my kids not to bother me unless the need is dire.
  • Have a conversation about the meaning of “dire.”
  • Feel smug that I’ve already voted. Mail-in balloting FTW.
  • Catch up on TV shows so I can’t procrastinate by watching them during the first week.
  • Finish the video game I’m in the middle of. Or at least get to a reasonable stopping point where I might have a chance to remember what to do when I load it up again in December.
  • Refresh my memory about basic stuff from Spirit Knights 1-3 so I don’t do anything really stupid while writing #4.
  • Stack on my desk a copy of every book I might write a sequel or related short story for. Add Plotto, my Writer Emergency Pack, and a small quantity of emergency snacks.
  • Realize I can’t stack anything on my desk until I clean it, so do that first, then pick up the stack I already made and relocate it to my desk.
  • Sneer in disgust at my Chicago Manual of Style, then stick it on a shelf where I can’t see it from my beanbag.
  • Wash my beanbag. It needs that once a year, right?
  • Prep one last make-ahead meal. Tip: cut your cheesecake into quarters and freeze each single-serving piece.
  • Panic.
  • Pretend to sleep.

#NaNoWriMo is Coming

Year number 9, here I come. Also? Win number 9. Because I will win again. It’s not in doubt. The doubt is over when and by how much.

This year, I have three complications to NaNo.

  1. I’m an ML. This isn’t much of a complication, since it really just means a little extra work in September and October. I did it last year and the only way it interfered was later in the month (after I already had my win) when people stopped showing up to the write-ins and I had to sit alone with my laptop in strange places instead of working from home. No biggie.
  2. I’m working 4 conventions between now and Thanksgiving. Renton City Comic Con is this weekend at the Renton Red Lion on S Grady Way. This is my second year doing Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma. After that is EuCon in Eugene, Oregon, followed by a return appearance at OryCon in Portland. That’s it for me for the rest of the year, but it’s a total of 9 days out of November when I won’t have time to write more than a handful of sentences. Plus the 3 Mondays following when I’ll be half-dead. 12 days is almost half the month. What idiot arranged that? (Me. It was me.)
  3. My home front situation is less than ideal. A little over two years ago, my kids and I moved in with my folks. Everything seemed great until health issues started to infringe. Now my dad is in hospice care. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means he’s not expected to be with us much longer. This is kind of a downer for creativity. It’s also eating time out of my day as things happen that need to be dealt with and I’m the one strong/skilled enough to do it.

Despite all that, I anticipate having the first draft of Spirit Knights 4: Ghost is the New Normal complete by the end of the month. If I’m lucky, I might have something else to go with it. We’ll see.

If you have no idea what NaNoWriMo is, go check it out!

The Home Stretch #NaNoWriMo

I’ve been busy. While I wasn’t paying much attention, November slid past in a whirlwind of words. As I write this, I’ve blown past my 100k goal and am heading at full steam ahead for 150k. Interestingly, as the weeks have passed, my publishing priorities have changed drastically.

Backyard Dragons will be ready in March. Chowndie…will not. It may have to wait a while. I’ve come up with the basic scenario for the as-yet unnamed book to follow Backyard Dragons and think I might be able to get it done in time for the summer. There’s a nonfiction book in the near future. An anthology was delayed until the New Year. I’ve simmering four different anthology submissions. I’ve outlined a new five book series, unrelated to anything else. Some of my backlist will be getting new covers. Snap up those early editions while you can.

And then there’s the book my son wants me to write so he can do a book report for it. He’s ten years old and would like a book that features lightsabers, dragons, pirates, and airships. We had a long chat about intellectual property, trademarks, and similar subjects, which means there won’t be lightsabers after all. They’ll be magic laser swords instead. I’m not sure I can write a serious draft of this before he needs to start reading it, but I’m going to try. Because I’m crazy like that.

My NaNo region is full of people surprising me by managing to win for the first time this year after several previous failed attempts. Go team! We’re losing the West Coast Capital Challenge by a wide margin, but with these individual successes, I hardly care.

To those folks with very small word counts and only these last few days to stew in the impossibility of your task, keep trying. Write a little as often as you can. As soon as it becomes a habit, it becomes easier to squeeze in. Beyond that, if your region is involved in any word wars, you’re part of a team and every word matters.

To those folks with the finish line in sight but too far to seem reasonable, you’ve got this. You’ve so totally got this. Don’t falter and don’t despair because you’ve hit a wall. Grab a sledgehammer smash that thing down. Go off on a tangent. Slap in unnecessary backstory. Above all, keep going.

If you, like me, have already crossed the finish line, congrats! Now comes the fun part. Step 1: Finish the story. Step 2: Set it aside. Step 3: Pick it back up in a month or two and re-read it. Fix it.

Whatever else you do, keep meeting with the people you’ve found through write-ins. Those folks are writers, just like you, and no one understands a writer like another writer.

First Drafts and Madness #NaNoWriMo #amwriting

NaNo has taught me many things over the years since I started doing it. Mostly, these things are about writing, specifically my writing process. I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes I can plan around them. Usually, NaNo is a humbling experience that shows me how little I’ve managed to overcome my weaknesses in first drafts, then a triumph as I crush them under my heel in revisions. *cough* pacing *cough*

The biggest thing I learned right away with my first NaNo involves the concept of a First Draft. Like many would-be-but-not writers, I always thought that novels sprang from mind to page in a nearly perfect state, requiring only minor tweaks and grammar fixes. After my first NaNo, that illusion was shattered irretrievably. It’s like being told Santa Claus is just a cultural construct used to convince kids they need to pretend to enjoy Thanksgiving in order to get presents a month later.

This year is no different. I finished the first draft of Backyard Dragons on Monday, and boy is it a steaming pile of crap. I’m now working on the first draft of Chowndie, and it’s alright, but far from brilliant. What I have to share now are a couple of analogies about writing that entertained me when my brain came up with them, so I thought I’d pass them along.

A novelist’s brain is really a giant cauldron of bland stew simmering over a fire. It’s got the minimum of things to make a stew: vegetables, meat, and water. To spew out a First Draft, the writer dips in a ladle and fills a bowl. We’d just work with the cauldron, but we’re fussy and like lots of different types of stew. They add a few herbs and spices, taste it, add a few more, and then pass it on to a beta taster. Ideally, that taster makes some additional herb or spice suggestions, or maybe would like a cracker or biscuit to go with it. Great! Soup! Sometimes, the things the taster suggested sound like they’ll go well with any iteration of the stew, so the writer tosses an herb or two into the cauldron and lets it simmer, or maybe makes biscuit dough ahead of time before repeating the process.

Obviously, one is the writer and the other is the reader. Image credit: What's Next

I’m not sure who is who here, but that cauldron is definitely my brain. Image credit: What Next

I might be hungry.

Anyway, on to analogy number two. Baseball!

I have no idea who this is because I hate baseball. Image credit: Keith Allison

I have no idea who this is because I have zero interest in baseball. Image credit: Keith Allison

Stay with me, because this one is good. Anyone can throw a baseball, right? Sure. To be able to actually pitch, you have to learn the rules and all the pitches. To pitch for the high school team, you have to practice some, but not a whole lot. It’s high school, after all. You can maybe ride on your talent, even. Most people who try could learn to pitch this well if they wanted to. The skill set is kind of particular, though, so it might not be worth the time and effort.

To become a minor league pitcher, you have to practice a lot more. And probably spend money on a trainer or coach, some equipment, that sort of thing. A lot of people could manage this if they wanted to, but it’s a lot of work to get this good at something, and even when you are this good, that doesn’t get you much because there’s plenty of others playing at the same level.

You see where this is going, I’m sure.

Then there’s the pro players. They pitch in the MLB. They’ve devoted a significant portion of their lives to being good at pitching and they do it all the time. It’s their job. Though they may not execute perfectly all the time, they know all the rules, they know all the pitches, and they know all the tricks. They do well enough to earn their right to the spotlight.

And then there’s Nolan Ryan and Orel Hershiser, and those other really famous superstar hallf of fame pitchers. I don’t know their names because I don’t care. The point is, writing is baseball, swimming, playing an instrument, coding, detectiving, drawing, etc. It’s a skill. Even if you have a natural talent for something, it takes practice, learning the rules, and probably some investment in yourself and/or gear & coaches (editors) to be genuinely brilliant at it.

Week 1 is (almost) done! #NaNoWriMo

If you’re like many WriMos, you’ve had a pretty good start. You’ve been plunking down those words every day, maybe in fits and spurts, and you’ve kept up with the daily goal. Pretty soon–maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week–you’ll crash and burn in a puddle of incomprehensible failure. Why?

  1. The excitement wears off. Yeah, it’s pretty great to be one of the cool kids for a week or two, but meh. You don’t really get anything for it. People give you an attaboy and move on. Whoopie-^&%*ing-ding-fizz.
  2. Exhaustion sets in. As it turns out, writing is a skill, and every time you do it is a form of exercise. If you’re not used to using the muscles that make writing happen and all of a sudden dive in to cranking them to eleven every day, the same things happen that also happen when you start a new physical exercise program cold. Your muscles cramp, you get exhausted.
  3. Frustration nips at your heels. The story isn’t coming out the way you envisioned it in your head. The stuff isn’t happening. Or the stuff is happening too much.
  4. You ran out of ideas. You thought you knew where the story was going, but it took a weird turn someplace and you have no idea how to proceed. Or you’re doing fine with what you planned, but it’s turned out to only be enough planning for a short story.
  5. You need to do the laundry. And take a shower and eat and sleep. If you’ve skipped out on self-care and household chores, you’re either living in filth already, starving to death, or living with irritated people who’d like you to make a damned meal or pick up your damned socks once or twice.
  6. That thing called “work” or “school”. Your boss/teacher doesn’t give a crap that you have goals and dreams. They want your work done or they’ll withhold/downgrade your paycheck/grade. You don’t want to get fired/fail.
  7. Something else–a medical problem, a family emergency, friend drama, your kids need you, your DVR is full so you either have to watch something or lose your favorite episode of [whatever] forever, etc.. Stuff happens. Life gets in the way.

What can you do to prevent/ameliorate this (in order)?

  1. Reaffirm the reasons why you started in the first place. Whatever they are, remind yourself and remember why they’re important to you.
  2. Take a day off. Write a little bit to stay with your story, but otherwise, watch some TV, read a book, take a walk, meet some friends for a bit. Let your brain chill and percolate. One day off can do a lot for you.
  3. Suck it up, buttercup. That’s how writing works. Add a comment to anything truly hideous and move on. Now is not the time to edit.
  4. See #2.
  5. Ew. Do some laundry and take a shower. Eat. It’s writing, not an Olympic event. Set boundaries and limits. Your health–physical and mental–is significantly more important than NaNo. If this is what you have to do to get your daily word count, maybe NaNo isn’t for you. Maybe you’re better off scaling back your goals to better suit your life.
  6. Priorities. Paycheck > NaNo. School > NaNo. Do what you can. Whatever you write this month will be that much progress toward your goals.
  7. Nothing. Life happens. Keep your risks low by not doing stupid crap like drunk driving and you’ve done all you can. Remember, NaNo is just a program to help you meet a goal. It’s not a contest. Winning doesn’t get you anything but a sense of accomplishment and a first draft of a novel, and maybe some attaboys. Losing isn’t a statement about your moral character or work ethic. NaNo winners are good at doing NaNo, they’re maybe good at writing. That’s it. Winning NaNo doesn’t get you a publishing contract, it doesn’t sell books, it doesn’t make you famous, it doesn’t fulfill anyone’s dreams. It’s supposed to be fun. If it’s not, stop and don’t look back.

Happy writing, folks. Seriously.