Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Sometimes… You just have to do it your way.

I think there’s a saying in the bible I need to use.

“I shall repent myself.”

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post all about staying focused as an author. I went on and on about how the difference between being a writer and an author was about caring enough about getting stuff finished that you actually worked on something until… it was finished. And just one something.

I was guilty of the opposite a lot before that blog post. In fact, as a kid I used to open five or six documents and work on multiple stories at one time.

The post I wrote was timely for me, and an important step in my progress as a writer. The truth is, I really hadn’t been focusing. I had wanted for a long time to be able to get something published, but I’d work on something for a while, get bored, then go do something else and never come back to the first thing.

Lately I’ve been letting myself feel guilty. As most of you know, I was part of this “It Gets Darker As You Go” anthology. So I focused on writing and editing the short story for that. And then thanks to that I remembered what fun it is to write short stories, so I crafted one titled “The Life of Miranda Chance” and edited one called “An Acceptable Future,” both of which will be coming out shortly. Then I started thinking about “Slavery’s Circle,” the first novel in my next trilogy that I’ll be releasing when I’m done with the Afterdeath series.

But with all of this focus going in all these different directions, I wasn’t working on Turning Point, which is book two in my Afterdeath series. There was kind of a dual reason why my attention wasn’t on the novel. The first was because I just don’t really know where to take it. I’ve written the entire novel already, and the revisions are going hard and slow. The second was because it was just fun to slip back into my old routine of multiple projects at once.

It was last night that I had a moment of genius, and I realized that even though picking one work and focusing on it is a good tactic, and it was certainly a great thing for me to do when I wrote Love is Death, that it’s not necessarily “required” of being an author.

Last night I opened up two documents. I opened Turning Point, and I opened Slavery’s Circle. I got one chapter revised on the Turning Point, and three chapters done on Slavery’s Circle. Now I realize, there’s a greater focus on the book that I’m not planning to put out right away, but it was time well spent, because otherwise I would have been surfing the internet or wasting my time creating a cover for some book I probably won’t publish for a few more months. Last night, though, when my mind hit its usual brick wall on Turning Point, I simply turned to my other novel. My productivity skyrocketed. Even if not all my time was spent on the one I’m supposed to “focus” on, I spent all my time writing, and the other book I was focusing on was one that will need to be finished eventually.

It’s great to pick one thing and focus, and there is definitely a time when that’s appropriate. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is great for doing this. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with doing it your own way, doing what you’re most comfortable with. Even if that means writing two books at one time. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in July, I actually plan to work on both novels. I’ll be setting word count goals that I want to achieve for both Turning Point and Slavery’s Circle. I’ll be focusing. I’ll just be focusing on two things at once. Which, honestly, is something I do really well.

Have fun. And enjoy the writing.

Oh, Why Not?

It’s almost October, and I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s blogs. Everyone is talking about NaNoWriMo, so I thought…. NaNo? WhyNot?

NaNoWriMo has been extremely influential and literally life-changing for my writing career, but there were several years that I turned my nose up at it. I used to say, “NaNo? Hell No!” This post is all about why I thought that…and when I changed.

I gotta say. I love the theme this year!

I gotta say. I love the theme this year!

So let me tell you a story.

I began writing when I was twelve years old. By the time I was fourteen I was certain I was going to be a best seller before I was sixteen. When I was sixteen I realized I had to get working at this whole publishing thing or I was going to get too old to do it. (I mean, who publishes their first book AFTER they’re 18? Heck no. I wouldn’t be, like, cool in high school if I did that!)

So I sent my query letter off to an agent. I waited the required number of weeks until I got my SASE back, and then I cried myself to sleep when it said basically, thanks, but no thanks. (It was, however, a personalized rejection, which I now realize is quite an accomplishment in the querying writer’s world.)

My life, however, was ruined. I mean. The first agent I ever sent my novel to, didn’t want it. What was I going to do? (Yes. I was a little dramatic.)

But no, really. What could I do? I don’t know. Maybe just keep writing.

That’s what I did. Novel after novel after novel. Usually three or four or five all at once. I had several people tell me, “Don’t ever take a creative writing class. They just want to tell you rules and destroy your natural genius in writing.” So for a long time I didn’t take creative writing classes. And then I decided that I wanted to. I grit my teeth, promised myself I would cling to my natural genius, and I would not allow this single creative writing class to destroy me.

It didn’t destroy me. It remade me.

I learned. So much. I took several creative writing classes in college. One of them I honestly thought was intended to destroy my natural genius. I didn’t like the way the teacher taught. I didn’t like the short story examples I had to read. I didn’t like the formulaic crap we were forced to write. And do you know what? I dropped the class.

It was around this time that I learned about NaNoWriMo. I had a friend who loved doing it, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “That’s only something amateurs do. I want to be a professional writer. I’m never going to touch something so awful as NaNoWriMo.”

I kept plodding away on my writing projects. This was kind of a dry spell in my writing life. I had no real umph, no real drive. I kept writing, because I knew it was what I wanted to do, but I felt like every word I put down was wrong, every character I created was flat, every story I thought of was crap.

I moved away from home in 2006 and started getting more serious about my writing again. Although, I can’t say how serious I was when I was younger. I found that original query letter I sent out at 14 and I cried again. This time I cried because I never knew how terrible the query had been.

These were the years when I would randomly think of NaNoWriMo in the middle of the summer. Or I would remember November was the month for it and look at the calendar to see that it was already the twenty-third. I allowed myself to consider the possibility of perhaps participating in it. After all, those creative writing classes certainly hadn’t squashed my inner writer like a bug. Perhaps NaNo wouldn’t, either.

In April of 2010 (I was unaware there was more to NaNo than just November. Funny that I did this during Camp.) But that year I sat down to the computer and started writing this idea I’d been thinking of for a while. I got the first chapter done and read it to my husband, and he said, “Well, what happens next?” I said, “I don’t know.” and he said, “So go write it!”

That next week was a whirlwind of writing a few chapters, reading them to the hubby, getting scolded for stopping on a cliff-hanger ending, and hurrying back to my computer so I could discover the next big reveal. (Yes. I am a pantser, in case anyone was wondering after that paragraph.)

Ten days later I had 30 or 40,000 words written and a complete rough draft of the novel.

That November in 2010 was the one when the realization that NaNoWriMo happens this month, and the proximity to the end of the month were both reasonable. I didn’t think of NaNo until the tenth, but I figured I wanted to be a professional writer, and those daily word count goals would be easy enough to catch up on. I’d finished that novel in April that was almost long enough to be a NaNo. I signed up and started writing.

You know those mid-November blues. Don’t deny it. You know them. Well, I got them. Bad. Long story short, at two days to the end of the month I still had 16,000 words to write to “win” NaNoWriMo. I have my husband to thank for me winning that year. He said, “16,000? You can do it.” So I locked myself in a room with the computer and pounded out six thousand words that first day. The last day saw me up early in the morning. Hubby brought me breakfast. He brought me lunch. He brought me dinner. The whole day long I sat there pounding keys. This was a word war to the max!

donotdisturb

Eleven o’clock PM I smiled to myself and typed out the last two words. The End. I validated my word count with just over fifty thousand words, celebrated with my husband that I’d done it, and I went to bed.

And My. Life. Changed.

Createspace was giving away free proofs of your NaNo novel as a prize for winning that year. I read through the novel once, fixed a few of the spelling errors, slapped together some cover art and hit, “Send me my proof.”

Three days later I had a novel in my hands. My novel. My book. I could feel it, flip through the pages. I could smell the fresh ink. I could curl up in bed and read it. Which I did. Then I lent it to my mom, who loved it. And she lent it to my sister, who loved it. My dad, my sister in law, my other sister. The book was passed around from hand to hand and with every pass I heard the same thing. “I love it.”

It was the first time since I was fourteen years old that I honestly believed I could publish something. It was a re-ignition of that fire I’d felt as a young adult. I could write. I loved to write. And I wanted to be able to share it with people.

NaNoWriMo did that for me. I don’t even want to imagine how different things would have been if I’d said, 16,000 words were too many to write in two days. I don’t want to imagine where I would be if I never finished that NaNo. I like to think that I would have tried again the next November and that I would have gotten that same ignition then, but all I can say is I’m glad I won that first year. Because it truly changed my mind set.

Okay. The story’s not really over. That was 2010, and now it’s six years later and I’m finally getting my first novel published. It still took me a while to get over that, “I’m good, but I’m just not good enough” mindset that I had when I was younger. But I started to change. NaNo was my catalyst. I can track the very beginning of that change in my writing life to November 10, 2010 when I said…NaNo? WhyNot?

I know it’s hard. It is. That’s a lot of words to write in one month. But what kind of writer do you want to be? If you’re serious about being a professional writer, then you’re going to have to write a lot of words. There’s just something electric, something incredible about the community and the excitement of NaNoWriMo that can be life changing. There’s something amazing about holding your novel in your hands. So have fun this November. And enjoy the writing.

Writer Vs. Author

My life has changed.

Well, my writing life. But the first sentence sounded more dramatic.

I’ve decided to act like an author, not a writer.

I have been writing for more than half my life, and all that time I have approached it like a “writer.” I write, yes, as both the writer and the author must do. But as a “writer” I write for myself. I have no specific goals. I work on whatever tickles my fancy at the time. Sometimes two…or three or four novels at a time. (I mean, take a look at the first fun fact I wrote about myself. I did this to the extreme when I was younger)

I wanted to get published when I was sixteen, but, well, that didn’t happen. I kind of forgot about it until 2010 when I decided to “actively” “try” to get published.

I love that. Actively try. That’s what I said I was doing. Actively trying to get published, and I couldn’t understand why it simply was not happening. And then it clicked.

I was acting like a writer. Not an author.

Wait. I have a little logic statement for you here. All authors are Writers, but not all “writers” are authors. (Go ahead. Draw up a Euler diagram if you’d like. If you’re a NaNoWriMo-er this may look familiar from a few years ago. This, however, is a Venn diagram. I had to look up the difference.)

Euler

Anyway. This whole distinction might just be something that makes sense only in my head. I might be the only person out there who sees a difference between being a writer and an author. But one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that we’re not quite as unique as we think we are, and if I’m starting to realize there’s a difference between “writer” and “author,” then maybe someone else needs to realize that too.

So let me show you what it was like being a “writer.” A day in my life as a writer goes like this: I sit down to write, (usually late at night after all the bedtime battles have been won) and I open up my current “Work In Progress.” Good old WIP is completely written, had a quick read-through once, immediately after it was completed (because I love reading my books), and has had a few little errors here and there corrected, but it’s still pretty rough. There are plot holes and smudges, marshes and deserts, and at times a few skyscrapers of useless information. A little overwhelming, but I start to work. This needs fixed, that needs improved. Change this character and delete that one and…

By now I’m tired. Not ready to go to bed tired. I’m just tired of knocking down skyscrapers and filling in holes, firming up mud puddles and watering down deserts. My mind wanders to that wonderful idea I had a week and a half ago. Of course, that idea belongs in my New Book, but what harm would it do to jot the idea down? So up comes the file for NB and I jot down the idea. And I jot down how the love interest reacts. And I jot down how the antagonist uses that to her advantage. Oh, and there’s this incredible argument scene where the hero, the love interest, the antagonist all get into a fight and…

The next thing I know I have eight thousand new words. I feel so accomplished! I’ve done so much tonight, really getting somewhere! Next stop on this bus is getting published AND…

Wait. The WIP has been halted and ignored for the last six hours while I had my little affair with a love interest and antagonist duking it out in the New Book. I was supposed to have this whole chapter rewritten, but now it’s two AM and my brain is mush, and every word I put down in my revision feels a thousand times worse than the first words I used. And the first words were Awful!

I’m awful.

I’m a terrible writer.

How am I ever going to get published?

Well, some day luck might smile upon this “writer” and I might make it through ten or fifteen, or twenty revisions of that poor Work In Progress. All the skyscrapers will have been completely knocked down, every hole filled, leveled, and raked over. The landscape will be park-perfect grass as far as the eye can see…and the book will be boring.

But perfect, I suppose. Let’s just publish it.

Great. Time to work on another one to get published. Hopefully it won’t take me another ten years.

Perhaps this example is a little over the top, but honestly, not too over the top. I decided in 2010 that I had a book that was worthy of publishing. Everyone I showed it to, be they friends, family, or complete strangers in the writing world, thought it was worthy of publishing.

That was six years ago. Has the book been published? No. But it’s been through fifteen or twenty…or maybe forty-five revisions. The “writer” in me is still not satisfied with it.

I realized I needed to change something. There was no way I could keep up this sort of pace at getting books ready to publish and get anything done. As prolific a novel “starter” I am, I have literally dozens of books that need to be polished up and put out there. No one is enjoying them but me, and that’s selfish to keep them to myself. (At least, that’s what a writer said to me last October, when she exclaimed that she wanted to buy my book but didn’t have the opportunity because I hadn’t published it yet.)

It was last October that changed things for me. I realized I couldn’t live my life as only a “writer” if I wanted to be an “author.”

It’s about discipline. It’s about focusing, setting goals and actually striving to obtain them. Yes. I still have those random thoughts about that New Book I want to work on, but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in long chunks of writing on something that is not pertinent to my Work In Progress. I allow myself a few hours a week to work on something new if I really want to, but something I’ve started to realize since I have begun writing like an author, is that I don’t want to work on that New Book. Not now at least. Take notes, keep track of ideas, jot down those brilliant one-liners, yes. But sit down and work on it for hours? No. I’m an author. I’m going to publish my book, and I’m sure my readers won’t want to wait five or six or ten years before they can read the prequel, then book two and three. It’s a Young Adult novel. My whole audience will be like…thirty before the series is done. (okay, let’s not bring up Harry Potter right now.)

The thing is, I need to stop being selfish. I need to stop writing for myself. I love writing novels, but I also love sharing them. My world would be a pretty lonely world if I never let anyone else live in it.

So what are your thoughts? Do you write like a writer, or an author? If you’re a “writer,” are you happy with just being a writer? (I know a lot of people who are, and that’s fine.) If you’re not happy with it, are you willing to discipline yourself a little more in order to get that book out there? If you write like an author, but you haven’t gotten published yet, well then, in the words of my October friend, “You’re selfish! I want to read your books. Susan wants to read your books. The WORLD wants to read your books!”

Wherever you are as a Writer, (all inclusive,) I just want to say this: You never grow unless you push your boundaries.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

harry-potter-1132459_1920

P.S. Don’t let your Young Adult Readers look like this by the time they finish your series. Please. If they do, there might be something seriously wrong with them. Like…black magic or something.