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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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

Down in the Writing Dumps…

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I saw this image on Pinterest and I just had to save it. I think every writer goes through this.

Right now I’m most certainly feeling the images on the right. There are times when I don’t feel like writing. Just opening up Scrivener – no, just looking at the icon on my desktop – makes me cringe.

Since Camp NaNoWriMo ended I have written all of 16,000 words. 16,000 words in the past 37 days. How is it that I can pound out 50,000 words in less than 30 days, but the following 37 days I can’t even break 20k? Even though I took a week off after Camp, that’s still 30 days, and all I’ve been able to write is 1/4th of what I was able to write in April.

Why is that? Why is it lately that every time I sit down to write it feels like a chore and not something that I enjoy? Why is it that as I’m typing the words, my mind wants to drift off until I eventually find myself browsing Facebook or Twitter? Or finding something that needs done in the house?

I think I know why. This image describes it exactly. Sometimes I feel like my scenes are hideous. I feel like my story is awful. I feel like I’m a despicable writer. And lately, all I feel like doing is sobbing because I’ve been telling myself that my writing will never amount to anything more than “meh”.

It’s a combination of a lack of self confidence, too high of expectations, and a lack of stick-too-itiveness. In April I had a goal of just simply writing. In April I had a goal of not caring if I get published. In April I just wanted to say I wrote a book. In April I wasn’t comparing myself to other writers, I just wanted to tell my story. In April I just wanted something that I could leave to my children when I’ve left this world; something that I could be proud of.

For some reason, my goal has morphed into much more. I want to be published. By TOR no less. I want to be found in bookstores. I want to be told my story is excellent. My characters believable. My scenes intriguing. I want people to tell me that my writing is a million times better than anything I wrote ten years ago and ask me why didn’t I stick to it back then because I could have written this a long time ago.

I want to be told this, because it’s not what I think of myself. I think, “What else have you written, Amanda? A couple pieces of flash fiction almost ten years ago – romance fiction at that – and you think you can just step into the world of fantasy writing? You think you can call yourself even remotely ready for any sort of publishing just because you’ve managed to write 50,000 words? Crappy words I might add. Words that suck and are going to need editing a dozen times. Call it quits now. You don’t even have a chance at publishing traditionally anyway. Those publishers are going to chew you up and spit you out. You have no online presence. You have no style. You have no talent. You haven’t even developed your own writing voice yet. Do you really think anyone is going to be even remotely interested?”

To which I reply to myself, “But I’m interested. Every time I go back and read previous chapters I become engrossed in it. I want to keep reading as if I’m reading someone else’s work. Doesn’t that count for something?” That’s when I start getting impatient. I want to start editing what I have so far. I get excited and I think maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this.

That’s when my self doubt comes back and gives me the same argument as before. Instead, what I need to do is get back into the mindset I had in April. Write for the joy of it. To say I’ve finished a novel and be proud. Then take a step back and breathe. After some time away, I can come back and go through the first edit. Only then should I start thinking about possible publishing. And as much as the thought feels like a needle stabbing me in the heart, I need to forget about TOR. Sure I can submit an inquiry, but I shouldn’t expect or even hope for any sort of positive response. This is my first novel after all.

I know that may sound pessimistic, but I’ve always been one to think “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” If I get lucky, I get lucky. It’s not like I don’t know the amount of work involved before I will even be close to that point. I’ve done my research. The problem is, I’ve done so much research that I think I’ve overloaded my brain.

What I need to do now is re-wire it. Go back to the excitement of April. The can-do-it attitude and the thought of “I don’t care if this is published. I just want to finally say I’ve done it.”

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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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Soul Weaver -Excerpt- NaNoWriMo

Since I decided to add a small excerpt in my profile on the Camp NaNoWriMo website, I figured I could go ahead and share it here as well. I’m still working on a good quick summary but here’s the description I have so far:

Magic isn’t just based on the four natural elements. It’s based on the emotions and spirit of the caster. Those who can master them all are said to have the ability to manipulate life and death.
Dubbed “weavers” by the king who wants them eradicated, and hunted to near extinction by mercenary groups called the Arakunrin, magi in the land of Teralinda are reluctant to learn and share their magical knowledge.
Their only salvation lies in the spirit of a young weaver desperate to master her powers. Haunted by childhood memories, Ellie’s emotions threaten to consume her. With the help of an unexpected ally, Ellie must master the life and light within her if she is to bring hope to the land and become a Soul Weaver.

SoulWeaverBookCovernoblurb“She felt it again. The warmth that spread through her chest and down through her arm. Closing her eyes, she searched herself and focused on the sensation. The intensity grew and she recognized which emotion it was. She grasped the locket around her neck with her free hand. Knowing the magic wouldn’t work if she allowed other emotions to cloud it, she picked clean the strings of fear and pain. Leaving only the purified sadness to flow through her heart.

The heat inside her became more focused. Stronger. Hotter. Thoughts of her mother flooded her memory and a tear spilled down her cheek. She willed the magic to go further, pushing her grief down through her extended arm. Opening her hand, she directed the magic to a point in the center of her palm and chanced a peak. A tiny ball of liquid blue fire hovered and danced in her hand, the wet flames licking her fingers. She closed her eyes again, struggling to maintain control of her emotions, and commanded the flame to obey. The liquid fire grew larger, threatening to engulf her entire arm. Tiny beads of sweat formed on her brow and chest from her efforts and her breathing became ragged. In the cool night, the warmth of the flames sent goosebumps down her body. She opened her eyes and smiled. The blue fire that had enveloped her hand dwarfed the light from her camp fire and cast a blue hue over her surroundings. Bringing the locket to her lips, she kissed it and whispered, “I’ve finally done it.”

The crack of a snapping branch broke her concentration and the blue fire vanished with a small splash. Her eyes adjusted to the dim light of her nearby campfire and she controlled her breathing. Droplets of sweat were trickling down her brow and neck, pooling between her breasts. She released her locket to hang once again around her neck. Ignoring the small wisps of hair that tickled her cheeks and clung to her damp temples, she took on a defensive stance. She reached for the dagger on her belt and strained to hear breathing from the unknown presence that she knew was hiding behind her.”

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Now that I’m a healthy start into the second chapter of my book, I decided to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo!

My goal is 50,000 words, and I’m going to play it honest and NOT include the 8,001 words that I already have.

I’m actually pretty excited, and anxious. I’m going to give it an honest attempt, which means I may be spending a lot of time at my local Starbucks just to get away from all the distractions at home. So for now I’m on a writing hiatus to give myself a fresh start on April 1st.

Just a small update on my novel: I’ve been having hubby help me with tweaking story ideas here and there, but this past weekend I let my two teenage sons read through what I have so far (about a chapter and a half) and they demanded that I finish it so they can read the rest. That made me feel really good! I also gave the first chapter to my mother so she can go through it with a fine tooth comb and find any spelling and grammar mistakes. My mother, who is not a fan of the Fantasy genre said that it actually pulled her in and she wanted to read more. Talk about an ego boost!

Since then I’ve been fleshing out some more details on certain events and the more I flesh out, the better it looks in my mind. Every day I get more excited about doing this.

In the meantime, I created the book cover for my novel and I’m going to share it with you. It was made with royalty free images that I worked some Photoshop magic on. My mother told me she loved it – and she’s hard to impress (she also is not one to blow sunshine up my skirt for the sake of making me happy, so I value her opinion).

Anyone who reads this blog is more than welcome to share their opinion as well – bad or good!

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