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Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’

A Fitting Sequel

nanowrimo-posterI’m almost halfway home in National Novel Writing Month, and more than 2/3rds of the way through my goal of 50,000 words. It’s fascinating to me that I can stay on course like this for so many consecutive days, even though this month hasn’t been the easiest one for finding time. Often I find myself not even getting started on my word count until after 8 at night, when I’m already exhausted and fighting the desire to just skip it for the day. But I’ve stayed the course anyway.

It helps that I am really into my story line, that it’s the continuation of a book I spent so much time and effort on before, and that it’s this entire fantasy world I created just for these characters. Well, I guess the word fantasy is a bit of a misnomer because it all takes place in America, but the time periods are a bit skewed, and the America of the book is a completely different kind of America from the one I’m used to, by design.

I’m thinking now that it won’t be YA after all. My wife reminded me that having a 30-year old protagonist kind of takes it out of the realm of something teenagers will want to read. Which is okay for me, although the world of the books is definitely a teenager kind of world, with magic, and relationships, and the good vs. evil dynamic. I am really getting into the good vs. evil dynamic right now. I’m deep into the climactic scene, and it’s taking every ounce of my strength and verbal dexterity to pull it off.

When I started 14 days ago I knew I would eventually wind up here, nearly halfway through the month, at a considerably significant place in the manuscript, working hard every day to keep up the pace. It’s just funny to me how things work, that this tale, that this world I created a couple of years ago, is alive and well, and into its second novel. Someone asked me just today if I saw it as a two book series or if there will be more to write after this one. I didn’t even take a second to think about it. This is without a doubt at least a trilogy. I have some real ideas for where these characters go next.

But for now, I’m going to let them finish out this tale.

Day 14 down. Word count: 37,850.

Sam

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20171031_184458~01~01.jpgI’m sitting here at my desk with a cup of coffee to hand, thinking up fantastic stories that will hopefully come to fruition in the next 30 days. It’s dark outside and I feel like utter crap, but my brain won’t shut down for the night. That’s because November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I am once again taking on the daunting task of writing 50,000 words in a month. This is my sixth year doing NaNo, but there was a time when I never thought I’d ever even attempt it.

For a long time I was simply a writer of short works: short stories and poems were my forte, and I didn’t stray too far from those. They were creature comforts for me, as reliable as Old Yeller and much cuddlier. People would sometimes ask me if I was ever going to try and write a novel, and I would laugh at them. “Why would I stretch outside my comfort zone?” For me it was an easy answer, because for me it was all about doing what was easy back then.

My wife, upon hearing that I was gearing up for yet another NaNoWriMo, good-heartedly joked, “So we won’t see you for the next month.” On some level that’s about the extent of it, honestly, because NaNo takes a singular commitment. It means setting word limits every single day and hitting those word limits, come sleet, snow, or hail… you know, or even the dreaded writer’s block. It’s particularly tricky when faced with all that life likes to throw in the way, but that’s also what makes it so satisfying. When I look up on November 30 and realize I’ve surpassed 50,000 words in one month I raise my hands high like a fighter who has gone 12 rounds with a behemoth.

So I’m ready to begin again, but this time will be different from the ones that have preceded it. For one, I won’t be writing something directly from scratch. With ever other NaNo I came into it with some ideas but nothing really set in stone. This time, though, I’m writing a sequel, which is a first for me. I’ve never written any kind of series, for probably the same reason I hadn’t written a full novel until seven years ago. Once I had the idea of writing a novel under my belt it became relatively easy to write with that in mind. But a series… well, it takes that much more commitment and an ability to take your characters and seamlessly slide them into another world, even if it’s the same world.

I guess it would have made more sense to just write 200,000 words in one shot, then separate all those words into two or three separate books, but I can’t imagine writing that way. For me every book has to have a beginning and an end, and splitting something in the middle seems just a tad bit wrong. Besides, now that I’m up for challenging myself, why not add on some more pressure? Maybe I should have waited until my 10th NaNo to attempt it, but I’m feeling like it’s time now.

Which reminds me, I’m tackling this as a YA series, something else I’ve never really done before (the first book hasn’t been released yet). It’s fascinating to me to write something so foreign to me, and yet I absolutely adored the first volume in the series. I knew while I was writing it that I wasn’t done with the characters, but I never thought far ahead enough to know exactly where I would take them next. Or where they would take me next.

I have a title, and that’s a start. I also have a chronology that I’m thinking will go in the beginning of every book in the series. It’s a start indeed. And first thing tomorrow I’m going to begin the beginning, as I attempt to string thread from where the first book ended off to where this one enters in. My thoughts have gone many places, from when I first decided to attempt to do this, to right now on the verge of actually digging in. Either I will get through it or I won’t.

But I think I will. Now I just need to begin.

Sam

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fadedpicIt’s the last day of November, which means I’m down to the end of the novel I’ve spent the last 30 days creating on fast forward. During the course of this month I’ve gone through the highs and lows of novel writing — the weights and balances that make the process of writing so dynamic, and why I love it so. But as tedious as it was in places to keep going day after day, to hit the deadlines I set for myself, to hit 50,000 words in 30 days, it was also an adventure in forming a narrative I would like to read myself someday.

Its working title is Faded, testament to my lack of creativity when it comes to working titles, and yet somehow it seems to fit the constructed narrative as it now stands. In some way the entire thing is all about an experience that happened twenty-five years before the events in the present day, a faded memory that never truly fades, because they never do. And the characters need to adjust to their memories of that time, to bring it back into focus so they can deal with the repercussions from it that have come home to roost.

Synopsis:

A girl shows up on Glen Davidson’s doorstep with a sad tale of death and disappointment, begging him to show her mercy, to offer up a leap of faith on her behalf. He does so, but unbeknownst to him the story is a lot murkier than she’s made it out to be. Can this investment banker beat the odds and discover this girl’s secret before it’s too late for her… or for him?

Characters:

Sally Groves claims she’s Glen’s long lost daughter, that she needs money, and that he’s the only one who can help her with her current problems. The only hitch: she isn’t who she claims to be, and the trouble she’s in is beyond her means, even with his help.

Glen Davidson is a man who made a huge mistake twenty-five years ago, and it’s haunting him now in the form of the girl who emerges from the shadows to make him second guess everything he thought he knew about himself. In his fight to protect a girl who doesn’t want his protection he might just lose himself.

Excerpt:

He can see the tears in her eyes again, and he wonders why she didn’t come to see him before now, why it took something so drastic to look for him after all this time. She rises, and he does too, but things are awkward with them, as they are at the very beginning. He reaches out his hand to her, and she takes it in an approximation of a handshake, but it lingers for a moment before she lets go first. Then she is gone again, out of the room and down the hall like an apparition floating on invisible wings. It’s easy for his subconscious to believe for a second that it didn’t just happen, that he didn’t just meet the child he never knew he had. But his conscious mind is busy dealing with the ramifications of the words they’ve just spoken to each other, the aftermath of it all.

Discussion:
When others hear that I am doing the challenge this month they have so many questions, but what I usually tell them is that it’s a labor of love, that it takes a commitment I didn’t think was possible, to forge ahead even when the words aren’t there. It takes a kind of perseverance to go day after day with so many words still to go, the countdown moving on and the word count hopefully going up at an exponential rate. But when I hit 50,000 words, and I realized I had gotten where I wanted, the satisfaction was so sweet.
Now I’m kind of sad because for the past month I’ve had a goal, a destination firmly in mind, and I’ve been so focused on reaching it. But now that I’m here at the end it is the beginning of “What next?” and I don’t know the answer to that question. I suppose I will work hard on re-drafting this novel from start to finish, then start on something else, because a writer really never stops writing.
Even when the madness of National Novel Writing Month has faded.
Sam

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NaNo Poster2.47Four years ago I decided I was going to just go for it. I decided I was going to try my hand at the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I had tiptoed around it for years, doing the complicated dance of feinting like I was going to do it, and then backing out at the absolute last second. I knew if I did that one more time that would be it; I would never do it in my entire life.

So I went for it. I started on November 1, 2012, with nothing in my mind but the ghost of an idea, a head full of imagination, and some half-formed characters begging to be set free on the page. It was the first time I would work with a deadline in mind, at least when it came to my own creative writing, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I quickly realized it would be a battle of word count goals.

30 days. It seems like such a huge amount of time until you get into it, and then it goes by like quicksilver, fast, then faster, then fastest. And getting behind in my word count goals was not an option, even if my word choice and narrative suffered for it, which I’ll admit happened sometimes that first November. There were some days when I was over 2,000 words in and nothing was on plot.

But I kept writing, which was the goal. I didn’t care about being perfect; that had to be thrown out the window pretty quickly when it hit me how much writing I would honestly have to do. And life got in the way too, the way it often does when I’m trying to get places. Some days it was work, and the rigors of an eight hour day working retail. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home was put my creative brain in motion, but I did it anyway. Then there was spending time with my children, which I love, but it also took time and energy from the writing process.

But I maneuvered around those things, and I kept writing. Some nights that first November I was up until nearly midnight (I always observed the rules of word counts for each day ending at 11:59), but I always got my count in. In fact, some days I was able to bank bonus words to help me when I knew I would have a hard time the next time generating text. I’m not saying it was easy, because it wasn’t, but when all was said and done I had gotten to 50,000 words before the end of the month.

It is a labor of love, the setup and execution that it takes to get to that word count, not just at the end of the month, but every single day during it as well. And as I finished another 50,000 words this November I felt like reflecting on the month that started it all. I’m so glad that I persevered, that I finally took the challenge I had put off for so long. I know I’m so much better for it.

Sam

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Writing is not a sedentary enterprise because my brain is always working overtime to keep up with everything that’s going on in the story, like I’m spinning plates. The characters become my friends sooner rather than later, sometimes poking me in the arm by page 3, ready to drive their own storylines and hoping I will let them. Even the antagonists have a way of getting beneath my guard and forcing me to embrace them, which is why I have to remind myself often exactly who each character is, how they’re supposed to act towards others, and why I wrote them the way I did at the outset. It keeps me on my toes.

This November is no exception, with NaNoWriMo now halfway over. I’m always amazed at how my characters take on a life of their own. My protagonists are in the midst of telling their tales, and living their lives, but it’s in the telling and the living that I see them for who they really are. My antagonist is also well defined, but I can’t quite bring myself to hate him. That’s because my antagonist is a multi-faceted individual who has some positives to go along with the negatives. While “pity” is not on the table, at some points “mercy,” and “condolence” are.

As I hit the halfway point this year I can tell that things are different from the past four. Even though I “won” those years (meaning I hit my 50,000 word goal in 30 days), I haven’t felt like things have always flowed from start to finish. There’s generally a wall I hit at some point that I need to get around, that I need to figure out before I move on. I hope there’s some wood around here because I may need to knock on it, but this year I haven’t had that impediment, not yet anyway. Perhaps it won’t rear its head, but even if it does I always get around it at some point.

Now it’s time for the back stretch, and the process is intact. I’m excited for the rest of the tale, which I’ll tell you about next time. But I’m even more excited for the characters to keep speaking to me, to keep giving me their stories in bits and pieces until it’s all been told. Those are the best of times.

Word count: 30,604 words.

Sam

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nanowrimo16“This is where it gets hard, in the perseverance of persistence, in the impetus to forge ahead when clouds obscure your way.” ~Theodicus

There’s a wall, not a literal one, but one that seems just as solid when faced with it. It’s called the 10,000 word threshold. By the time I get to it every single November I’m faced with a few things to chew on before proceeding…

  1. What realizations have my main character(s) made by this point?
  2. Am I digging deep enough into the back stories?
  3. Where do I need to go with the next 10,000 words?
  4. Does the dialogue reveal more about my character motivations and personalities?
  5. How can I avoid a lull?
  6. Am I being consistent?
  7. What about flashbacks?

This last point is one that I deal with most often because I like including flashbacks in my work, particularly in my novels. I’m a huge fan of revealing a lot of my characters’ backstories through flashback. But keeping it all straight — knowing what I’ve said through flashback and what I’ve omitted — can be tricky. However, 10,000 words in means I should have already set up significant flashbacks and that I have a lot to draw from when going back to the present. If not, then I need to go back in and edit.

That’s my process, such as it is, that I’ve pieced together over the five years that I’ve been doing this novel writing business. It’s still fascinating to me that I’m doing this, that I’m not still only writing occasional short stories and poetry. And I love it, the ability to craft entire stories, whole pages of intrigue and interactions, like I’m in the story myself. In a way, of course, I am.

Also, 10,000 words means I’m 1/5th of the way to the final goal of 50,000, but I’m still very much more toward the start of the journey. That helps keep things in perspective, but it also inspires me to write on.

Word Count: 14,064.

Sam

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nanowrimoWriting is a process. I’ve always thought that, but it’s only been lately that I’ve honestly tried to pick it apart, at least my own process. That’s because up until 2012 I hadn’t focused on writing larger works. I had been content with shorter pieces like short stories and poetry, which didn’t require too much picking apart. But to write over 100 pages of prose requires a breaking down of plot in a way I had never thought of before.

And every November I put that process to the test, participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Some years I go into it unprepared, waiting for the muse to take over after I’ve already started the story, and others I come in with a character list, a plot summary, and an ending already mapped out. Either way, however, I put the process to the test. It looks something like this…

  1. Is my story going to be character driven or setting driven? Or both?
  2. Is my protagonist one character or two?
  3. What is my point of view?
  4. What will my story progression look like?
  5. Will this be a mystery or not?
  6. What will be my starting sentence?
  7. Who is my supporting cast?
  8. Add details.

This year I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go with my story. All I knew was that I had a male protagonist, that I was going to write in third person, and that my goal was 2,000 words per day. So far, through three days of NaNoWriMo I have a male protagonist who has already run into a couple of surprises. I have been writing it in a present tense, third person narrative. And I’ve hit my 2,000 words per day. It only gets harder from here, though.

Word Count: 6,713 words.

Sam

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