Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2015


November, aka National Novel Writing Month, has come and gone. This time around, I was what they call a NaNo rebel. I’ve been meaning to work on short story writing for a while, and the stars just aligned this time around so that I wasn’t ready to work on a new novel. However, I could see outlining some stories and at least getting a start on them.

I called this effort #30Stories30Days, and will share more on how it went later. Most likely this sharing will come accompanied with begging for beta readers. If you’re willing to help me in this way, please comment (either below, on Facebook, G+,Twitter, or whichever way you find easiest) to let me know and we’ll figure out how to make it work.

Officially, I “won.” That is, I got my word count and then some. Final tally came in at 68,075.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Again


Of course I’m doing NaNoWriMo. Sorry I didn’t blog about it before this. Has it really been three weeks since my last confession, er, blog post?

I’ve just been totally wrapped up in the planning and the writing involved in NaNoWriMo. However, instead of writing a novel this month, I decided to write a bunch of stories. Or, to be more precise, to start a bunch of stories. I had ideas for three or four novels and many more short stories, and I thought I’d get to work on a few of them. Part of this came about because I keep hearing from published science fiction and fantasy writers that an important component of learning to write well is finishing your work.

It’s hard to finish a novel, even if you have a first draft. I’ve got one novel I care enough about to keep working on. I started during November of 2012. It’s still not done. So I thought, heck. If short stories are good enough for Ray Bradbury, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Aliette de Bodard, maybe there’s something there.

Then I learned about Ray Bradbury’s 52 Week Short Story Challenge. Hmmm. That might be just what I need.

After November, in which I’m writing (actually, starting) #30Stories30Days, I hope to have plenty of material to mine for the entire following year. Then I’ll finish a story a week. Even if I take a few of weeks of vacation and/or get caught up in whatever drama life chooses to present, I should still be able to finish 45-50 stories. As Ray Bradbury would say, they won’t all be bad. Unless of course, you really have to write all 52 stories to end up with one good one. Then I’m screwed.

Still, I think I’ll learn a lot. I’m looking forward to it.

So there’s this Magical Medicine Show…now what?

One can work in one’s peignoir

The lovely people at National Novel Writing Month are pushing a new thing, or at least a thing I don’t remember them being as pushy about in previous years. Now that we’ve all written a novel, they’re all about making it good. And because I’m into the whole “Show Your Work” movement, you get to read about how I’m going about making it good.

NaNoWriMo works for me because of the combination of deadlines and the group solidarity. In the past, I either haven’t had a novel with any potential, or I didn’t want to go through the scary, scary revision process all on my own. Luckily, one of my writing peeps, KatherineWriting is leading an editing path as an activity of our local writing group, The Writing Journey. She’s all about deadlines and group solidarity. This past week, those of us who are participating received an email with this request from her:
Please post a brief blurb about what you’re planning to do for the Editing Path. (Often it helps people achieve their goals if they write them down.)

  • Where are you starting? It doesn’t have to be chapter one.
  • What do you intend to do first? Quick overview changes, detailed line by line, or ?
  • How much do you hope to get done in February? How many chapters per week?

Here are my answers.

Where am I starting?

Pretty close to the beginning. I spent December and the beginning of January going through the novel I drafted in November of 2012 and November of 2013. I smooshed the two drafts together and attempted to remove extraneous character, scenes, etc. I’ve been looking at the first section with mixed feelings of dismay and delight, mucking around in it a bit. Time to stick a fork in it and move on.

What am I doing first?

I’d like to get it to pass the sniff test—making sure it doesn’t stink. Shall I count the ways in which it might stink? That will take too long. The least painful way to ease in will probably be to:

  1. Fill in the blanks. I have some bracketed and/or highlighted text which might denote a missing character name, location or some specific research detail. So fix those bits.   
  2. Make sure I buy the character motivations. I remember a few of them as needing work.   
  3. Remove overwriting and redundancies. Repetitive redundancies. You know, where you say things more than once even though the reader got it the first time.
  4. If I have any time after that, I’d like to fill in specific sensory details. More showing, less telling. Not so much white room syndrome. All that good stuff.

How much do I hope to get done in February?

I would dearly love to get the novel in good enough shape to share with beta readers (alpha readers?) by the beginning of March. Or by March 14 at the latest. It’s not exactly in chapters, more like scenes or sections. A March 1 deadline would mean about one section (averaging 4500 words) per day; I’m not sure I can do that in three hours, let alone one. I may or may not have the damned thing* ready by May. Though of course if I feel I’m on the right track, I can always start sharing chapters before I’m all the way through. That’s probably what I’ll end up doing. If you like being of service to your fellow man (or woman in this case) watch this space for requests for beta readers.

*Sorry. I didn’t mean “damned thing.” I meant “my wonderful, exciting novel about which I’m passionate.”

NaNoWriMo—what I learned, plus—perks!

My final official total was 65,594 words

This year during NaNoWriMo, I had the opportunity to beta-read the first draft of a professional writer’s novel while writing my own. As I slogged along in my poorly organized story, this writer dashed off elegant prose and posted a new chapter of it every day or two. She knew the setting. She knew what was coming next. She knew her characters inside and out. She knew how to write all of the above so it showed up on the page.

By contrast, I had only the barest notion of my setting. I had a beginning and an end in mind and only a bit of an idea how the characters got from one end to the other. I knew a few of the characters pretty well, but was spitballing all the others. As for knowing how to write it—I can’t say I know how to write something when I don’t have it firmly in mind, can I?

I’ve now completed five novels during previous National Novel Writing Months—if by completed, you mean that I’ve written at least 50,000 words each time. Some Novembers were more successful than others. Maybe two of them gave me novels that felt more or less whole. Beginnings, middles, ends, character growth. All that stuff. For those two, I was well organized and had clear goals. The other years were more about discovery writing, aka “pantsing.”

All writers have their favored ways of working, falling somewhere along the Pantser/Plotter continuum. Now that I’ve had a chance to process my process, I think I’m happier being a plotter. It’s not that there are no discoveries (AKA surprises) when I write from an outline, it’s just that the discoveries seem more useful when I’ve defined the context better. Which brings me to an offer I’m about to pass along.

Since I “won”, I’m entitled to several winner perks and goodies from some of NaNoWriMo’s sponsors. There’s one perk that I’m not going to use, and which I have permission to pass along to anyone who would like it.

[EDITED 1-8-2015: I’m leaving the information below so the post appears pretty much as it did initially, but the offer of my Scrivener half-price code has been accepted, so I’m not able to provide it any longer. If you’re interested in a NaNoWriMo winner code for Scrivener, you may still be able to find someone who has it to spare, but mine is gone! END of EDIT note.]


If you want to try the writing software Scrivener , you can get a free 30-day trial through the web site, Literature and Latte. If you’ve already tried it and know you want to own it—or if you just want to own it without checking out the trial version—I have a code that will allow you to buy it at half price. Right now (12/9/14) the Windows version is selling for $40 and the Mac version is selling for $45, so that means that with my coupon code, you can get it for either $20 or $22.50, depending on which version you want. This 50% off code is good until May 30, 2015.

I’ve been using Scrivener for the past few years for novel-length work, and I really like it. It gives you a place to organize information, research, and inspiration as you’re working, and makes it easy to find these support materials when you have questions later—questions like, “What was I thinking?”

So please, if you’d like to know more about the program and/or would like the coupon code and information on how to use it, contact me. If we know each other via Facebook, Twitter, or some other way, please message/email me. If not, please leave me a contact method in the comments section below, and I’ll get in touch with you.

On Scalzi, NaNoWriMo, & being Mary Robinette Kowal’s evil minion

Scalzi & me (not heckling him!)

So…here’s a little NaNoWriMo-related  tidbit. It may keep you thinking about the endeavor with hope rather than dread, no matter where you are in your word count and story line.

Last month I went to a Chicago stop on John Scalzi’s book tour for Lock In. I went at least partly because John claimed on his blog he gave good book tour, and partly because I just enjoy reading John Scalzi, so why not get a signed book? Also, Cookie likes John Scalzi, so I had a built-in buddy.

Anyway, he wasn’t kidding. He does give good book tour. Not that I was surprised, having seen him handle toastmaster duties at ChiCon/WorldCon with fabulous aplomb in 2012. But it was fun to see him less formally.

Before the signing, Cookie and I were sitting around waiting for Scalzi to start the reading, and I happened to tweet where I was and what I was doing. Then things started happening, so I put my phone on vibrate and forgot about it so I could soak up Scalzi wisdom. Here’s what I learned about writing:

  1. Write a lot. Scalzi wrote for years and years as a day job and a fan before he started selling his fiction.
  2. If a story doesn’t work as you first conceived it, it’s okay to start over. He initially started Lock In with one idea in mind, but found that he was spinning his wheels, so he started over again, bringing different characters to the fore and letting them carry the story line. He read us a discarded scene. Cookie and I can testify that there was nothing wrong with the scene, but he needed to go a different direction in order to have the book do what he wanted it to do.

There are some things it doesn’t hurt to hear over and over (see 1 and 2, above). Until they stick. I write plenty, but if I still need to write more in order to come up with something marketable, I will feel less stupid about it. I can say, hey, even John Scalzi sometimes needs to start over, but what he ends up publishing is primo.

Anyway, while I was standing in line waiting to have my book signed and mulling over these little lessons on writing and life, I happened to glance at my phone again. Lo and behold, Mary Robinette Kowal had responded to my tweet with this request: “Heckle him for me.”

Ordinarily I would never do such a thing, but I felt the need to let him know of Mary’s tweet, so I showed it to him and he was all, “Yes! Yes! Heckle me and take a picture, so she knows you did it!”

So Cookie used my phone to take a picture of me heckling him, which we then sent back to Mary. She seemed, as John predicted, delighted that I followed instructions. I could practically hear her go, “Mwah-hah-hah!”

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized I had become Mary’s unofficial evil minion. Mary has official minions, of course. When I was at the Writing the Other workshop last June, there were two, Christy and Stina. They took turns; sometimes Christy was the evil minion and Stina was the good minion, and the next day they would change alignments. It can be full-time work, being one of Mary’s official minions. I’m just glad I got to be an unofficial minion for a few minutes, albeit an evil one.

I’d like to mention just one more John Scalzi related tidbit. He wrote a very encouraging blog post just as NaNoWriMo started up this year. In it, he explained how writing a novel in November isn’t necessarily a giant waste of time. Lock In, when he finally needed to turn it in, ended up being written during NaNoWriMo, and now…you can buy it! So there’s that.

For those who are working on their novels this month, here are a few other novels that got started during National Novel Writing Month which ended up getting published to fabulous acclaim:

And several others I haven’t read yet, including:

NaNoWriMo Link Salad


Most of the writing mojo is going to novel-writing this month. Blogging wordage may be sparse.

In the meantime, please enjoy a National Novel Writing Month link salad. My Writing Journey peeps helped put together these prep workshops for the Naperville region of NaNoWriMo:

The Stone Soup Method for NaNoWriMo Success by Tim Yao and Kaden Patrick

Genre Tropes and Cliches by Frank Dahlman

Fiction Improv—Preparation for NaNoWriMo by Todd Hogan

How to Survive NaNoWriMo with your Sanity (Mostly) Intact by Jen Moore

This next link is not from my Journey/Naperwrimo buddies:
30 day’s worth of NaNoWriMo advice from writers Scott Westerfeld & Justine Larbalestier

Enjoy! It’s not too late to start! (Jen’s workshop will help you there, or write me for tips.)

Oh, and if you read this on November 4, 2014 and haven’t yet done so, please vote!

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month: be there or be square

I don’t write as much as I should. I have managed to pump out over a million words, but that sounds like more than it really is, especially when some of what I’ve written is sheer navel-gazing. Not to put too fine a point on it.

November is the one short window of time when I can’t help but write a novel. It may not be much of a novel…scratch that. It definitely won’t be much of a novel, at least not without buttloads of revision. However, it’s one more novel than I might otherwise write. For me, any anxiety that it might not be the best thing ever is entirely beside the point. One of my writer buds, Todd, shared a story that appears in the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. In this story, a ceramics teacher divided his class into 2 groups. One group was told they’d be graded entirely on the quantity of the work they produced while the other was told they would be graded on quality.

If someone in the quantity group made 50 lbs. of pots, they’d get an “A”, 40 lbs. would earn them a “B”, etc. The ones in the quality group only had to produce one pot, but it had to be “perfect” to get an “A”. If it needed a tweak or two, the pot would get a “B”, etc.

So what happened? When it was all over, the “quantity” group ended up producing more pots of greater quality. They had plenty of opportunities to practice and learn from their mistakes. The “quality” group had a lot of theories about perfection, but the theories didn’t appear to translate to better work. Makes a person think. Anyway, this November, as I have since 2010, I’m throwing 50,000 pots…er, 50,000 words or so at a story idea I have, and seeing what I learn from doing it.

I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy. Writing 2000 words a day, give or take, will take a lot of will power or ego strength or something. A lot of other things might not get done—like vacuuming or meals cooked from scratch. Luckily my sainted sister always hosts Thanksgiving, so I won’t have that issue. And there are a few days—like Cookie Day or Thanksgiving—when I may write fewer words, and which I’ll have to make up for on another day.

chocolatechipcookies   radishes-342932_640
Hmmm…decisions, decisions

I also intend to be especially good to myself—mostly cookies and almost no radishes. That is some stellar advice I got from another writing bud, Jen.

Jen and Todd and a lot of other fellow travelers/Nanowrimos are a huge part of why I know this is doable. If you want to write a novel in November, I can’t say this strongly enough: do it with friends. I’m hosting a couple of write-ins in the Chicago suburbs on November 1st (and 22nd) and you’re thoroughly welcome to join us there.

What if you want to write a novel, but live in a galaxy far, far away from Chicago? I’d still love connecting with you via the National Novel Writing web site. My handle there is Cee-Bee.

You in? Please leave a comment below with any questions (or fast-novel-writing tips) you’d like to share.