It’s Nanowrimo! Holy gods where has the year gone? I feel like just yesterday I was saying Happy New Year to folks.
Ok, so, it’s November and I’ve apparently been abducted by aliens this year because that’s the only way to explain all the missing time. I’m also recovering from seriously heavy burnout. Slowly feeling more like myself, but trying not to push it. Pushing it leads to more burnout.
And because it’s Nanowrimo, we have a new crop to harvest! A new crop of writing advice!
Like all harvests, some of it is good, some of it is bad, and some of it is of dubious quality. Be careful before you dig in; you don’t want ergot poisoning. (Actually…ergot is a hallucinogen, so it might help you come up with things to write. GO FOR IT! No, don’t, don’t ever take advice from me. Or do, whatever, I’m not your supervisor.)
Floating out there in cyberspace, I saw one particular part of writing advice that I needed to comment on. (I don’t remember where I saw it; I just know I saw it. Also it’s not an uncommon piece of advice to get tossed around.)
It said something along the lines of “it’s no good writing a bunch of words if you have to toss most of them out.”
Yeah, so, this is wrong. I mean, in my not so humble opinion, obviously, your mileage may vary, but so, so wrong.
You can’t fail Nanowrimo, so long as you get some writing done!
If that’s the criterion, I have failed this year, because I have written 0 words. Zero. Look:
Nothing. No words on Anala, no words on From the Ashes; just a smattering of words on blogs and some rants on Facebook.
And yet I’m counting this month as a success. Why?
Simple. Even though I planned to write this month and failed, I managed to not beat myself up about it once. I managed to not feel shame. I managed to be okay with not writing for a month.
I didn’t write anything this month, but the fact that I didn’t rip myself apart for it means I can go into December with a clean slate, free of shame, and not let the failure of November weigh me down. If anything, the failure is lifting me up, because for the first time I’m okay with failing at writing.
(What helped was reading this blog post by Mary Robinette Kowal, which helped me realize my inability to write at the moment is depression, not lack of will. It made it okay for me to be gentle on myself, and to take steps towards digging myself out of the depression hole.)
So I am going to spend the rest of today getting ready for the new month and maybe cleaning my kitchen a bit, and letting the end of Nanowrimo pass me by without a word written. (Assuming the fumes from the renovations upstairs don’t suffocate me first.)
No one is every any good at anything until they practice, yet I’m the worst sort of drill sergeant in my own head, screaming at me, calling me a maggot, because I wasn’t perfect the first time — or because I THOUGHT about quitting.
Gods know how I ever got to a point where I not only finished but published two novels. I think I have, entirely, my outside support system to thank for that.
I’m a perfectionist. Type A personality. I don’t quit things. I finish them, and they’re always perfect. If they’re not I need to take anti-anxiety meds and hide in my closet.
Very rarely this can be a positive thing — makes me get things done right the first time — but mostly it’s the fucking worst. I mean, generally this attitude makes me unable to deal with failure of any sort, which basically makes me unable to function because being human means failing at something on almost a daily basis. No one is every any good at anything until they practice, yet I’m the worst sort of drill sergeant in my own head, screaming at me, calling me a maggot, because I wasn’t perfect the first time — or because I THOUGHT about quitting.
Gods know how I ever got to a point where I not only finished but published two novels. I think I have, entirely, my outside support system to thank for that.
This year I signed up for Nanowrimo. Again. I do it every year, it seems (except 2010 — can’t remember why not, now, but likely I was just under unholy amounts of stress and made the smart decision) — Nanowrimo is like a drug I cannot resist. Its siren call urges me on to the greatest heights of success…or the lowest depths of failure.
Often I beat myself up for not finishing Nano. Even last year, when I reached 60,000 words two weeks before the end of November — I was upset because I hadn’t actually finished the story, which was what I had set out to do. Give me a chance and I’ll always find a way to be hard on myself.
Which is silly — a year later and that book, the one I started for Nano 2012, is published. Obviously I’m not a failure. My brain is a liar.
So this year I decided I wanted not only to write my ID — that is, write whatever the hell I wanted and not worry about story mechanics or whether my main character was too Mary Sueish or not — but also publish as I finished chapters. I felt it would give me…some sort of accountability, if only to myself.
I then decided to pants writing a story set in a world that needed extensive worldbuilding. Not my best decision.
At the beginning of November I was still deceiving myself into thinking I could do this, even without any portable writing tool — my laptop is on the fritz and experiments with the iPad have revealed it’s quite impossible to use it to write away from home. At least until Scrivener has an app for it.
And then came the editing and formatting delays with Stranger Skies, which I’ve mentioned here before. And I got so caught up with the work of publishing that I had to put writing aside.
I stressed about this for a while. How could I not? I was failing again.
And then at some point the stress just…melted away. The stress regarding Nano, at least. I got to the end of the formatting and editing work and…just never got back to Nano.
It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with what I’ve written so far; far from it. I think I have the beginnings of a good story there. I just don’t have the energy to write in the constraints of Nano this year. And, honestly, I should really be focusing on some WiPs before I go starting new projects to get halfway through before dropping.
So I’m embracing quitting this year. I’m not winning Nano; I’m not even going to up my word count any higher than where it is — a piddly 3,763. I’m letting it sit and I’m going to be okay with that.
Even if I need a little help from my good friend chocolate.
First draft clocks in at just over 70,000 words. Definitely shorter than Bellica‘s ~250,000 words, but then Bellica was meant to be a standalone (ha ha) and Stranger Skies is going to be the first in what’s looking like at least a 4-book series. Perhaps six. I’m not sure yet, because the rest of the plot is pretty damn hazy.
No, I didn’t intend a series when I started it. As I was writing, I realized there were too many plot threads to keep in one book, and I had to choose one plot thread for this book and continue the others in the rest of the series. It’s staying fair to the story, that way — it’s a big one and doesn’t deserve to be shoved into one book. It needs space to tell itself.
At this moment I’m filled with elation and a bit of gratitude for my school and the bullshit they pulled — had I been enrolled in SFU this semester, I most certainly would not have finished the book this soon. Yesterday I sat down and wrote over 4K words, and knew I’d finish it by Friday. Today I wrote 3500 words and unexpectedly reached the end.
I now have revisions to make, as well as some additions to threadbare places earlier on in the story — I’m glad that it’s only 70K right now, because it gives me room to add more in those places. I’ll also be working on making the series story bible more fleshed out (if you want to read a great guide on building a story bible, RJ Blain has a tutorial in three blog posts: The Basics, World-Building, Characters), as well as cementing a timeline for events not only in this book but for the next one. After revisions, I start work on the second book by drafting a plot outline.
Oh, hey, at some point I became a sort of professional author. How did that happen?
Stranger Skies will be released sometime this year. I also have plans to release Bellica‘s sequel, The Jade Star of Athering. Which means finishing it, of course. That’s February’s writing goal. (Or rather, my writing goal for February. February does not have a writing goal. It is a month. It has days.)
I’m also currently suffering from a bit of “MY BOOK IS FINISHED WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE????”-itis. It’ll pass shortly. I hope.
Too long; didn’t read: I’m awesome and amazing and am off to go celebrate now. See you after the weekend! (Yes, SFFSat post still happening, but scheduled ahead of time. I likely won’t be back on the blog till Monday.)
Silva woke to alien smells and sounds. Her hearing was duller than a wolf’s, but sharper than a Terran’s. The sounds of a fire crackling, bacon sizzling, people outside chopping wood, talking, laughing — all the sounds of a morning on a farm — assaulted her.
There were too many hearts. The rhythms were off. She was used to one heart per body; now she had…two? Three? They thrummed in her ears; she could not escape the beat of them. Her chest felt as if it would explode.
Stranger Skies is the story of the goddess Silva, Lady of the True Woods and Queen of the Deep Furs, Wild Goddess of Wolves, and how she falls to a different planet and becomes mortal. Trapped in her new mortal body and life, she has to discover her destiny in this new world and find a way to reclaim her godhood.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the other great offerings for SFFSat here!
You read that right. I’ve already hit 25K in my NaNoWriMo project, Stranger Skies.
The story is fleshing itself out nicely, and I’ve gone ahead and done the Smashwords NaNoWriMo promotion — you can read chapters 1 and 2 for free. Curious as to what it’s about? Here’s a short description:
Silva, Lady of the True Woods, Goddess of the Deep Furs, falls through a portal during her search for her missing friend, Etan. She lands on the planet below, suddenly mortal.
On an alien planet, she must navigate her new and strange mortal life. Soon she discovers there’s a reason for everything, and her coming to this new world was not by accident.
As war brews on the horizon, Silva goes on a journey to reclaim her godhood, find Etan, and save the wolves of Min.
I’m experimenting with several different things for this story. I’ve named chapters with things like Falling to the Future, Flesh Prison, or The Wolf in the Woods — instead of my usual practice of naming chapters with the name of the character who’s telling that particular part. (I say ‘usual practice’, but truth is I’ve only done that for one book — Bellica. The Jade Star of Athering is, so far, simply divided up by numbered chapters. So is Islands of Fire and Water. That may change.) Another, I’m not writing about Terrans, or Terra, or Terran colonies at all. The main character is original from Terra, yes, but she’s also originally a goddess — it’s not exactly the same as, say, writing about a Terran mortal traveling to a new planet. So that’s interesting.
The big experiment is that I actually planned out the story. Not every scene was decided ahead of time (and a lot in the latest chapters have changed), but the big ones were. I decided, ahead of time, what my First Plot Point was, my Second Plot Point, my pinch points, my resolution. I have Larry Brooks to thank for that — while I don’t agree with him wholly on his philosophy that planning is superior to pantsing or percolating, I do concede that planning my Nano novel is leading to an infinitely better first draft, and a higher likelihood of my hitting 50K well before the month is over. And I wouldn’t have been able to plan if I hadn’t read the majority of his posts on how to plan your Nano novel.
If you’re a pantser or percolator and you want to give planning a try, I recommend reading Larry’s posts for some ideas as to where to start.
Now, full disclosure, while planning has yielded higher word counts and better writing for me, I don’t fully like it. It’s contrary to my nature, so I may never fully like it. But I find that when I do a beat sheet and figure out the big five scenes ahead of time, I get sort of bored with the story early on. I wasn’t able to do a complete beat sheet, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to where I’d quit planning out scenes — I wanted to “get to the good stuff”.
Which tells me something important about myself. As much as I dislike having my routine changed unexpectedly, I love the unknown when it comes to writing. I like getting stuck and having to think about it for a few weeks until it suddenly hits me, a flash of inspiration while I sit in the bath, getting pruney. Running naked down the street shouting EUREKA! appeals to me.
I also find that I’m not always sure what will take a full scene, or more than one. Some things that I had planned out as one scene took three; other things that were planned as four scenes only took two. I’m having to adjust as I get through these bits, re-numbering scenes and re-structuring chapters.
Which is fine. It’s a learning experience. I’m not knocking it. It works.
But I don’t think I’ll be planning all my stories. The NaNo ones, yes. Possibly short stories, as well. The other novels?
I’m going to keep on percolating, I think.
This, of course, means that The Jade Star of Athering will probably not be done until the end of December, and released at some point in early 2013. I’m aiming for April. Cross your fingers that that will happen (and let me know if you’re interested in being a beta reader).
What about you? If you write, do you pants, plan, or percolate? Some combo of the three? No idea what I’m talking about? Wondering where the pie you ordered is? I love hearing from my readers — leave me a comment below!
I stayed up late on Hallonanoween so I could start writing at midnight. I didn’t start writing until 12:30 or so, because my Samhain ritual ran a bit late. Kept writing till 4 am.
Longhand: 7.5 pages.
Typed: 3,814 words.
Those are about equivalent with each other — I typed up almost all I handwrote. My goal for the rest of today is to do another 28 pages longhand. Tomorrow I’ll start the day off with doing another 7.5 pages longhand and then typing up 3,666 words.
I’m doing the NaNoWriMo Rewards System this year, with a few modifications. Every Wednesday I’ll be working on The Jade Star of Athering instead of Stranger Skies. This gives my percolating writer’s brain a break, too, from the NaNo story. I’ve got most of it planned out, but the details in the last two parts are pretty hazy and probably will be until I write some more. This is the first time I’ve ever really planned a NaNo story and so far it’s going really well. Sending my thanks to Larry Brooks at StoryFix for his tips and tricks (even if I don’t agree with everything he says, he does know his way around story mechanics and beat sheets).
I’ve got a beat sheet mostly worked out (missing some details between the second plot point and the ending), some maps drawn, character profiles done up, chapter titles written.
So far, so good, though I’m running desperately low on junk food. (No, I didn’t stock up. Silly me.)
I’m going to share with you the opening lines to Stranger Skies. This month expect me to be pretty sparse on the blog entries — I’ll be doing SFFSat and regular progress reports for NaNo, to map the decline of my sanity. Probably won’t be doing much else.
Without further ado, a bit of Stranger Skies:
Chapter 1: Falling to the Future
She was falling so fast, so hard, plummeting like a dying Ice Crown Starling.
Yes. The bird. Desperately she tried to change shape — her humanoid figure stretched like elastic, briefly, then bounced back into its shape.
She was falling faster, hurtling to the ground below, and she was stuck in the form of a bipedal ape. Her powers weren’t working.
Adrasteia, the half-Atherian, half-Ixilean hero, is currently visiting Harbourtown with Duke Leandros of Aeril, the brother of the woman she’s sworn to protect from a plot by the Children of IxChel, intent on reclaiming their people’s Jade Star. The Duke has taken Adra on a small tour of the countryside while she recovers from her wound. And by countryside, I mean various cities around Athering, as there are no wilds left.
Soon they reached Harbourtown, and Adra was glad for the chance to stretch her legs. The air smelled strongly of brine and seagulls rent the sky with their harsh cries. She and Leandros went down to the seawall, where they took a leisurely stroll, watching the waves come in and out. It was a sunny day but there was a chill in the air — each breath left Adra’s nostrils and lungs feeling awakened. She was glad she had her jacket with her; since her injury she found herself getting cold with more ease.
Harbourtown was a slow city. More a town, really — the streets were cobblestone, a throwback to a simpler time, and the buildings were still made of wood. Really old wood, she supposed; at some point they’d no doubt have to rebuild in stronger synthetic materials. Until that time came, however, Harbourtown clung to the past. It was almost quaint.
As you can no doubt tell by the handy dandy widget to the right, I have 7K words to go before I win Nano. I won’t be done with the novel — hells, I’ll be lucky if I make it to the mid-plot point — but I will have won Nano.
Considering I’ve spent the past three days working on getting Bellica ready for print (and will spend the next few days getting it ready for ebook) and have not slept overmuch, this will be awesome and worth much cheering.
So I am off to write some exciting Nano story. Mostly with lots of sexual tension — it’s increased after the first kiss and “just friends” talk, you know. 😉
It took me a while, but I finally decided on a title for my Nano-novel. Dead Transgressions.
Sounds pretty detective-y, right?
Anyway. I’m at 30K. My plan is to win Nano by Saturday the 12th. If I still need to finish the book, I’ll keep writing. If not, I’ll let it sit and focus on other things. Probably The Jade Star of Athering (which is sort of connected to Dead Transgressions, though I totally didn’t plan that at all as the two stories are almost 10,000 years apart).
Still working hard on the release of Bellica (which now has a Google+ page here, so you should go and check it out…for reasons that will become clear to me at some point, I’m sure). So far it’s going according to plan and you should see copies out and about on the 25th. If it’s late, it’s late. I’m not allowing myself to panic.