Free Writing

NaNoWriMo 2014 – WINNER

I honestly didn’t think I would make it, but as you can see from the title, I managed to win NaNoWriMo 2014! I was behind for almost a week, got caught up, and then fell behind again during the holiday. On the last day, I bust out little over 3k words to hit 50,002 words (according to Scrivener – Validation gave me over 51k.) This time I didn’t count any notes, blog posts, or word sprints. Only words that went directly into the novel itself.

 

Sadly, I’m still not finished with Soul Weaver. My word count currently sits at 115,806. I’m estimating about another 15-20k words (give or take) before I can officially say that the first draft is complete.

NaNo14WinnerGraphTo be honest, I’m worried that I’m pushing the limits on my word count. If I were to self publish I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I have plans to try to submit to a few publishers first and I know that they may refuse my manuscript on excessive word count alone. That being said, I know that a lot of it will be cut during the first round of editing. I’m banking on that.

With that in mind I’m fighting the urge to start learning how to edit. While I’d like to think that most of my first draft doesn’t have too many grammar and spelling mistakes, what I’d like to learn is how to make sure I have proper flow and continuity. That my characters are fleshed out and consistent. That there’s a great hook at the end of each chapter to keep readers reading. Everything that a professional editor would look at. That’s what I want to learn. My goal is to have my novel impeccable before submitting it to any publishers. The less work their editor needs to do, the better.

NaNo14WinnerCertificate2I’m also starting to do some research about beta readers. I won’t start taking names until I’m through the first round of editing. I’ve already got my two teenage boys who are chomping at the bit for me to finish so they can read through it and help me out, but I’ll need more. Preferably readers who have beta’d before and can offer some awesome feedback.

 

But all that can be saved for the future. Right now, I still have a few more chapters to write. If all goes well I’d like to be done with the first draft by the end of December. I’ve already got a few ideas in mind for what I’m going to write in April.

Speaking of April. I’ve managed to motivate both of my boys to join me for Camp NaNoWriMo! I even got them a copy of Scrivener to use. My younger son has already started using it to transcribe the book he’s been writing for the past few months. All he had before was a notebook full of scribbling so he’s excited to see it all typed out and divided by chapter. I’ve directed him towards the Young Writers Program that NaNo offers as well. So lots of awesomeness to look forward to.

 

For those who won WriMo – CONGRATULATIONS! To those who didn’t – as long as you wrote, you’re still a winner. Even if you only wrote a couple words, it’s better than nothing. Just keep at it! And keep in mind, there’s always CampWriMo in April and July too.

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo Day 18: Record Breaking Change of Plan

See that picture right there? Yeah, that one to the left, and there’s a larger one at the bottom. See them? That’s what getting caught up with NaNo after being almost two weeks behind looks like. That’s what forcing myself to pound out nearly 6,000 words looks like. That’s what writing my butt off looks like. (And I mean that quite literally. My butt was numb for quite a while yesterday.)

I know to some of you that may not seem like much, but to me it’s the most I’ve ever written in one day. My previous record was a little over 5,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

I know the more I force myself to write every day, the easier writing will come, but I noticed something in common with both of those record breaking days:

I planned.

That’s right, this so-called ‘pantser’ actually sat down and took the time to plan out where the story was going. It was only after planning, that I was able to pound out 5 and 6k words. Almost like they were nothing.

 

I think it’s also getting easier because because I’m nearing the end of the book. Soul Weaver currently sits at 94,515 words with a total goal of around 115k. But that’s only for NaNoWriMo purposes. I won’t be disappointed if I only write another 5k before typing “THE END”, but I have a feeling that’s not going to happen. There’s so much I have yet to write. The climax is coming. The MC needs to grow. The bad guy needs to be defeated. People need to die. (In the book! In the book!) I know I have another good 10-15k to write.

 

The problem with being a pantser is that you never really know what to write until you write it. There are times you get stuck because you’re not sure where it’s going. Like introducing a new character. Or ten. That was the case a few days ago when my MC met a group of people that I knew would be instrumental in the end, but I had no idea how to write them. I had to take the time to sit down and name them; give them a back story; find out what their personalities were; and what their role would be, before I could continue.

Had I planned all of it out from the beginning I would have been able to write through that chapter without an issue. So after I wrote them into the story, I took the time to plan out where the rest of the book was going.

Chapter by chapter I wrote what needed to happen next. I gave myself some flex room in case a character decided to do something odd without asking first. (We’ve all had those moments right? We think our characters are going to do something, only to find out that they do something totally different.) In the end, I planned from the next chapter until the end of the book.

And you know what happened? I was able to punch out 3k, 4k, and almost 6k words in one day. Not only that, but I felt much more comfortable with my writing. By this time I know my MCs well enough that was easier to write their story in the direction I now know it’s going.

 

To say that I think I may have learned a lesson here would be an understatement. I have a sequel in mind after finishing Soul Weaver and it might be safe to say that it will involve a lot more planning beforehand. Maybe I’ll be able to be one of those people who finish NaNoWriMo in one day!

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe I can just shoot for 75k in 30 days instead. Yeah, that sounds a little more reasonable.

 

So I leave you with this: If you’re still lagging behind, struggling to catch up, and maybe thinking you won’t be able to finish – try doing something different. Something you don’t usually do. If you’re a planner, try pantsing. If you’re a panster, try planning. If you’re a little bit of both, take a break and challenge yourself by writing a short back story for a side character.

Another thing you can do is to find someone to challenge you. A little bit of writing truth or dare if you will. My friend Aaron Steinmetz and I did that during Camp WriMo this year and I’ll be darned if one of his challenges didn’t wind up becoming an important part of my novel.

If you’ve never played, it goes like this:

You: I dare you to write about a three legged dog.

Friend: Okay, I dare you to have one of your characters use the word ‘fart’.

It’s as simple as that. You both write the other person’s challenge and before you know it, you’ve just added another couple (or hundred…or thousand) words to your novel. Rinse and repeat. Keep in mind: if you don’t like it, you can always edit it out later.

 

If you’re still struggling, don’t fret. NaNoWriMo is meant to get writers into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few words. So if you don’t wind up with 50k words by November 30th, but you continue to hammer away at your writing every day then you, my friend, have already won.

 

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Free Writing

Help! Photoshop Has Sucked Me In!

Since winning Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve taken a week long break from writing. I must admit, on one hand it feels good not having the pressure of needing to write every day to make sure I keep up with my word count. On the other hand, I miss it. My story still hasn’t left my mind. So starting on Monday I’ll get back to writing every day.

You can tell that I’ve still been distracted with my book this week. I’ve spent countless hours in Photoshop putting together my book cover as well as a map of the land of Teralinda. I’ll be including the map in the first few pages of the book. I’ve also debated putting in a few drawings of the items mentioned in the book. Namely my main character’s necklace as well as her dagger. Both are pretty essential to the book, so it’s nice to have a visual reference for them.

Here is what I have for my book cover so far. I used the template provided by LuLu.com. They have a wonderful reward for those who win NaNoWriMo: A FREE first edition printed hard cover of the novel you wrote for WriMo. I hope to at least have the entire first draft finished before the deadline of August 31st so I can take advantage of this offer. Although it won’t be fully edited, just seeing it in print will be truly overwhelming. Heck, just printing everything I have so far from my own printer is overwhelming.

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Soul Weaver book cover version 1.0

 

Major thanks to calthyechild from Deviant Art for creating a great way to make your own maps. Including permission to use commercially or non-commercially. I had been searching for weeks for software to create a map like this. I nearly shelled out $100 until I found this little gem. I cannot thank this person enough for offering such a simple way to create a customizable map like this. I may tweak it a bit more, but I really like what I have so far. I’ll be using it again for the sequel (title to be determined) as well.

Soul Weaver map of Teralinda version 1.0

Soul Weaver map of Teralinda version 1.0

 

So even though I haven’t been writing this week, I have been working on the novel itself. I’m actually looking forward to Monday when I start writing again. I think I easily have another 10-20k more words to write. Knowing me, it will be even longer than that. I’ll likely double what I have so far, which is quite a bit. That’s one huge stack of paper waiting to be edited!

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Soul Weaver after Camp NaNoWriMo

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Making a mental list: Questions from a new writer

I am now 10 days into Camp NaNoWriMo and I’ve been quite proud of myself for sticking to my writing. I’ve written something every day. Even on the days I didn’t think I could. My current stats stand as thus:

  • Total word count for NaNoWriMo: 18498
  • Total word count for Soul Weaver 26,729 (I had 8,233 already started before WriMo started)
  • My average words per day is 1,849
  • With a target word count of 50,000 words, at my current rate I will finish on April 28th.

I love seeing the stats the website provides. Not to mention the little target image that moves your arrow closer to the center with each updated word count. I’m so close to the 50% mark I can taste it.

I am, however, beginning to pile up a mental stack of questions about my novel.

 

What category is my novel?

I know I’m writing fantasy. It’s my favorite genre. Not just for writing either. Reading (Sword of Truth series anyone?), games (hello fellow D&D, WoW, and Guild Wars players), and role playing (yes, I have dressed up for DragonCon before. Twice. I still have yet to LARP but not because I don’t want to…..). Fantasy is where my heart lies. Thus, that is the genre I am writing.

However, I have no idea if I’m writing a YA novel, or an adult fiction novel. How do I know?

I’ve read that your word count is what determines the category of your novel, but I must disagree. How could a 50,000 word count fantasy fiction novel that includes sex, rape, drugs, murder, etc be considered a YA novel?

My goal is to have at least 65k-85k words. I’ll likely end up having more, considering I’m almost at the halfway point of 50k already and I’m not quite halfway through with the novel itself. I don’t plan on having much of the afore mentioned scenes in my book, but there will be reference to it. If my novel winds up being 60,000 or so words, would it be considered YA? I wouldn’t consider it a bad thing if my novel was classified as YA, but how do I really know? It can’t possibly be all about the word count.

I have a feeling that based off of the MC in my novel, and the way she handles situations in the beginning, that Soul Weaver will be categorized as a YA novel. I think I’m okay with that, but that just means I’ll have to keep in mind that I can’t get too graphic when it comes to the mature content. (Maybe I’ll save that for a romance novel later on down the line.)

 

How long should my chapters be?

My other question is chapter division. When I first started writing, I had a word count goal of 5,000 words per chapter. I’m not sure where I pulled that number from, but that was my goal. For the first 3 chapters I stuck to it. Until I hit the 4th chapter and it wound up barely hitting 1,500 words. I didn’t feel as though I should add more to it just for the sake of word count, so I left it as is.

When I started looking into what the average chapter length is and I found this blog that said

New writers tend to assume that a chapter must be a certain set length in order to maintain the average novel length of around 80,000 – 95,000 words, but in truth, chapters can be as long or as short as you need them to be.  There is no formula.  You don’t have to pick a number like 80,000 and then divide it by 30 chapters to give you 2500 words a chapter (average).

The only thing you need to apply where chapter lengths and novel lengths are concerned, is common sense.

Taking that into account, I went through my novel and found places where I could break up the current chapters I had into nearly 3 separate chapters. Had I kept with my 5k word count goal per chapter I would only wind up with around 10-12 chapters for the entire book. It just didn’t sit right with me. So now, at over 25,000 words I have 20 complete chapters with an average word count of around 1,300. Which when finished, would produce around 50-60 chapters. That seemed a little better. Plus I thought that with shorter chapters, it would make it easier for someone to read a quick chapter before going to bed, on their lunch break, or whatnot. Much like the Sorcerer’s Ring series by Morgan Rice.

 

Self publishing vs traditional publishing?

The last question I’ve been asking myself is “What do I want to do with this novel when I’m done with it?”

Do I want to try to get it published? Or go the route of self publishing?

I don’t have any misconceptions about my writing. It’s not like I think it’s phenomenal, incredibly unique, or that it will wind up being the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games. Anyone who has read my old writing can see that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to writing (although I’d like to think that what I’m writing now blows away anything I wrote almost 10 years ago). Plus, I’ve read somewhere on the interwebs that your first novel is almost always going to suck, but you wind up learning from it and have more success with your subsequent novels.

I know I’m nowhere near finishing this book. I have a lot more to write and even more to edit. I have the beta reader phase (which I hadn’t even heard of until recently. I still need to read more on how that works.) There’s more editing and then what? That’s when I either start submitting to publishers or start making my book available on Amazon.com or wherever I plan to market it myself.

 

I know I will continue to add to my list of questions the further along I go. These are just the questions that have been floating around in my mind for the past week. I have a lot more work to do, and a lot more to think about. The nice thing is knowing that I’m not alone. There are tons of other writers out there like me who have the same questions.

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