End of November

Have you ever tried to write a novel in a month? It’s not necessarily impossible, especially for a zero draft. The fun part for me this month, I didn’t try to write a zero draft. I aimed at a better one. However, I didn’t take into account how much I had to write from scratch to make this novel work.

So, I have a draft that is better in some places than others (especially the middle needs attention). The part I’m really proud of is that this draft is all Book 1 and not with Book 2 mixed in of my Space Western. I have a beginning, middle, and end, and my plot and characters are pretty much where they need to be. I only have chaptered it up to 9, and I am starting to go through to find the rest.

Also, I wrote/edited about four short stories this month. Two have been sent out, one is finished this morning (that few paragraphs were haunting me), and I’ll start the rewrite on the next soon.

Finished four books this month, and I was surprised they were all #2 in series:
Narwhal I’m Around (The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter #2) by Aaron Reynolds
Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse
In Over Their Heads (Under Their Skin 2 of 2) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Merger of Evil (Sequel to Minion of Evil) by Shannon Ryan

November (NaNo and more)

I crossed the 50 000 words for NaNo today. I’m not quite done with the novel yet, and I’m all right with that. I’ve also submitted two short stories to magazines for publication. I’ve got two or three more short stories I’m cleaning up. The good news is also I have notes of names so I don’t forget them. I have minor twin characters that are difficult to parse sometimes. I’m so excited to finish this draft, though I had no idea how much I’d need to write from complete scratch when I started. I have two more of these, but the second book has more of a draft, I think, because books 1 and 2 were woven together. It feels like I barely scratched the surface getting book 1 by itself.

What’s gotten into me? Who knows, but it’s fun. Life feels great when you’re accomplishing the things you know you need to do.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Reading while Writing

I’ve been working on this novel for a long time, but I keep needing to put it down. This week I read my current draft (40k) looking for the things I need to finish it.

A friend and I swap recommendations, because we each need to do that. I found a new speed-reading app and she found a read-aloud app, so we’re both playing with these. It’s exciting, because I’m not always good at reading my work out loud, but I listen when it plays. I also can catch the big gaps in my story when I speed-read and see, oh, right, that’s a big gap.

Usually I try to write in order, but I got ahead of myself. It’s understandable because this rewrite was much different than others – I have a highlighted and commented copy by my side to make it both easier and harder. Easier, because I know what this book looks like instead of the last draft (which had a combined book 1 and 2 feel to it), and harder, because sometimes elements of both books are very much entangled together.

It feels like the downhill stretch. Exciting to know what I need to finish and have a plan for how to do that. I’ll probably need to read it aloud, too, so I know I finished this draft. Maybe by month’s end!

Descriptions

I remember that very first novel I tried to write- I was in high school. I had pieces, some good and some not so great, and so many more ideas in my head than I knew how to put onto paper. Classmates knew some of my notebooks held poetry and others held these story notes. In my first high school, they’d pass my poetry notebook around after a few stories in junior high. In my second high school, a few trusted friends would listen to my meanderings. I still have these notebooks in my office.

Description has always been a bit troublesome. That first piece of novel I had a character who changed hair from blonde to red and back again at times, so I found a way to weave that into the storyline. It was easy to get lost in such a huge cast of characters as an epic fantasy might be; at times I did lose my way. The novel (or series, who knows?) never did materialize, but something about that act of creation felt like it was my thing.

On the way, however, I’ve had to get better at descriptions. Yesterday I sought out a description for a character I don’t often see from the outside. I’m not sure he’s got the right coloring for his species. I looked up notes from years ago to figure that out. (I do not recommend dragging projects out for years. They evolve as you do.) It becomes a distraction, and yet I’m still glad I’ve got those original notes on my ideas of what these creatures may be. I’ve similarly been trying to document all my places that are named as well as visited. (Because in a series we’re going to come back to the places where the Important Characters reside.)

I love how it is all taking shape, and I’m excited to get to the end of this draft. Descriptions may never be my ultimate strength, but I’ve improved over the many years I’ve been writing. I should just pretend he’s the cute guy in the picture.

Short Story or Novel Opening?

This is something I’ve struggled with a while. It probably leads to the idea that so many of us are novelists or short story writers, because a few of us are always starting with what feels like novel openings.

The real trick, I suppose, is figuring out the difference to make that short story shine. Maybe upping my short game will also improve my novels. I do think I’m improving, though. I included enough world building to make it feel like the beginning, rather than ch 3. Chapter 3 beginnings feel like they’re in the middle of something much bigger but not enough to give the reader the feel for all those beginning definitions to really ground someone in the story.

Still, I appreciate the opportunity to turn over this story and try again. Are you with me on the idea that we always find a few ways to improve a story once we ask someone else to look at it? I often find I do. I’m going to find a placebo reader who will just let it sit three days for me to rewrite it again. It may not be enough. Writers seem to need muses that make everything urgent and life-threatening, or they end up doing housework or something less filled with blank pages.

I’ll admit to my NaNo project, and today I woke up at 5 (accidentally) but I got in a good sprint this morning before going back to bed. The novel is progressing, and my time bomb is still ticking. The main character just got hit with an idea that makes her think uncomfortably about her future.

Finger crossed.

Leveling Up, Writer Style

Often, I attribute these things to research. There’s so much to learn, and so many ways to apply that knowledge. I’m also staying on my writer’s track, though, and part of that means learning about self-publishing, marketing, and sales of books. It’s a lot to figure out all at once.

So since I’ve been working so hard on an outline (I’m not even sure what comes up in your mind for outline, but it’s not the one we learned in school) and I’m learning to convert that into a pitch. I know the basic information, and I can keep rewriting my book while I consider what to add to make that into a pitch for a book people definitely want to read.

Some people are naturally gifted at how to make things sell with their words. Mom was great at that, keeping the truth to the words but making it sounds more employable for the context. (She made a good living as a technical recruiter.) I think often writers like me are so focused on creating our worlds and making that narrative flow that we don’t spend as much time with things like how to sell it others. That weak writing muscle then becomes something we’d rather farm out than practice.

Maybe that’s just me. Except I’m pushing myself to learn. I’m going to tell myself they’re like push-ups; they bring strength to a bunch of different parts through working together and if I practice I’ll learn to nail it.

Writing Life

I’m not sure anyone knows what to expect when we dreamed as kids to grow up to be writers. I had ideas but no deadlines except schoolwork, and writing (and reading) filled up a great deal of my free time. Adults seem to have a lot of extra responsibilities and a whole lot less free time, so what does that life look like?

Creative scheduling helps. I know I’m brilliant at picking up part-time jobs. I have three besides writing at the moment, plus the full-time job of herding children everywhere. The good news is that ties down part of my week (Mondays and Tuesdays) so it isn’t a long mess of days without much change in what happens. I’ve also learned to use timers and lists of what needs to get done, though somehow the laundry is always trying to take over my to-dos.

I’m currently 13.3k into a novel rewrite, with a bunch of work on untangling that plot from book 2, as well as finding the details of book 3. It’s going to feel amazing to get that trilogy together, though I’m not exactly sure how long it’ll take. Rewrites are apparently easier for me than major edits, and that’s a very interesting realization for me. It has helped me shake off that major edit dread, and I’m starting to see where i get lost in the words while I’m doing it differently.

On the horizon- self-publishing, a press, and an anthology for Paradise ICON to support the con. The first two are here and here. I’m really excited to bring another one into existence. Also, to learn the book making process and all the fun parts of marketing.

Don’t worry- I’m still writing. Make that 41 days!

Writing Season

ICON is this weekend, and I’m excited to go. I also got out that long-term novel series project, and I’m excited where this rewrite is taking me. It is something I’ve never quite tried before. More short story ideas come to me, too, and I’m still unsure of what will happen with the project I sent to my Paradise ICON group.

I know I’m always excited when writing season comes, but on my rewrite – I have chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 finished since October 1st. Of course I messed with my timeline and I haven’t gone over (Ch 2 and 4) again except to change obvious number of days in travel. The point is to get the story readable and to only include Book 1. Currently my draft has so many different notes it can be very difficult to read. There’s a heading for every chapter on whether I put it in Book 1 or Book 2 or what part needed to be in which book.

Also loving that I’ve been spending most of the time the kids are at school with my stories. I’ve also been reading some middle-grade speculative fiction lately, as well as adult versions of it. Watching a few space westerns, too, to round it all out well.

A chapter a day keeps me too busy to worry about what I might not be doing. Though I do worry when my son says he dreamed up monsters and he’s afraid he made them real. It sounds like he needs to write things down, too. More to come, I’m certain.

Fluorescent Cats and Other Writer Madness

I made one deadline and I need to finish up a thing for another deadline this week. I’m excited to be close to making these deadlines. I’m also starting a new story, and it started with a thought experiment a month ago or so and it lit my brain on fire. While catching up with a few panels that had been recorded at WorldCon, I remember why I love being around creatives so much. There’s no limit to what comes out of us.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-glow-in-the-dark-kitty-77372763/

So while talking about destroying things, someone had an idea that fluorescent cats might be a good idea at Chernobyl to keep people away, and I am just pretty positive that there’s a significant portion of the population that would simply yell KITTY and want one of those cats. (Okay, it’s not just me and my son, I swear.)

The point was about finding something that would be available for the next ten thousand years to keep people out of places that aren’t healthy for them – and I’m not sure there’s a universal thing that would do that. However, Fluorescent Cats in Chernobyl is the best band you’ve never heard with their breakout album of Disaster.

It doesn’t even work with my current random obsession with fungi. I hope someone will read that story soon.

WorldCon

I love WorldCon.Technically it is ChiCon8. It’s also the first Con where I had roommates, and that was a lot of fun, except I like to talk instead of sleep. (Like, we know we’re tired, and yet we still have more to discuss.)

Among the panels and finding old friends, we make new connections, visit the dealer’s room, and find parties. I’m watching and listening to some of those panels that I missed this week, since a friend had the brilliant idea of mostly going to panels that weren’t recorded to get more out of the experience. (Thanks, Athena!)

Lisa became my new breathing buddy – so when you read this sit down and do some diaphragmatic breathing. (Everyone should. It’s really good for you, I promise.)

Doug swears I can talk to anybody, and I find this really difficult to disprove. It can be a bad habit to chat people up in elevators and outside the escalators, but waiting around for my people to get out of their panels and back to the meetup spot can be difficult to keep quiet with all the conversations around me. I hear this is an ADHD trait, but I’m just accustomed to it from a lifetime of friendly conversations…

How do you figure out how to disprove that? Honestly he should bear the burden of proof, but I’m sure he’ll stick to his introvert excuse. Instead, I’ll show you some of my fun moments (because half the time I just forget to take pictures).

I’m excited to get back to writing- but if you’re the fun couple I chatted up by the escalators when the elves and dwarves came down- please comment. I love finding new people who read!