Clever with the Word Count.

As previously mentioned in my last blog post, I had every intention of participating in the 2014 run of National Novel Writing Month, or as the I’ve been informed the kids are calling it these days, The NaNos.

And, uh, so I am participating in the 2014 run of National Novel Writing Month. Huh, that worked out nicely didn’t it? Look at me and my holding to a promised action! I’m like some kind of functioning human being! PRAISE ME.

Anyways. We’re at the mid-point of National Novel Writing Month and so far, so good-ish. I’m about four thousand words behind at the moment due to missing a few days because that whole Life thing insists on continuing even when I ask it nicely to pause for a month. But only a few thousand words isn’t that bad in my NaNoWriMo history! It’s practically on schedule except for the part it isn’t! This upcoming week is going to be my mad push to reach 40k before Thanksgiving so I can, for once, not have to worry about frantically pushing out twenty-three thousand or so words in the last four days of November.

So far this has been my most successful NaNoWriMo. Honest to gravy this is the first time I have actually and factually pinned down an ending to a story before working on anything else and woah dang howdy, I will never attempt another story without doing so. The fact that I have an end point to work towards, or at the very least an end conflict, makes it a lot easier to piece together the fiddly middle bits that have to connect the beginning with the end. I’ve got myself a main character, she’s got herself a little sister, there are class mates and magical abilities and categorical divisions that eventual fans will be able to identify with and buy merchandise based on them. It’s going to be brilliant, I tells ya, and I’m enjoying the process so far.

But let’s jump back a month, shall we? Travel back to October with me when everything was beautiful and I could fart around making sure a 500 word piece of flash fiction was just so for days on end. O, the halcyon days!

Back in October I bought a Humble Book Bundle [see note at the end of this post for a correction], which if you’re not aware of this being a thing that exists, OH MY GOODNESS LET ME TELL YOU A THING. The Humble E-Book Bundle offers you, go figure, a bundle of themed books for a price that you name. There is a base price (which is going to be stupidly cheap for the amount of books you get) that will net you a handful of e-books in various, DRM free, format or as the case is right now, a bunch of audio books. However, if you pay above the median price you unlock another handful of books that often include a big name author to help sweeten the pot. When you pay you can choose how much of your money goes towards the authors, towards the selected charity that has been connected to the bundle, and how much goes as a “tip” back to the Humble Bundle makers themselves. If you’re feeling flush with cash and make a big donation you even get your name on a leader board! Whee, recognition!

The first bundle I bought was a collection of what I think of as “Writer’s Self Help Books” and which for the love of all things adorable I cannot find right now on the Internet @#$%!!! I’ve perused these books and their promises to teach me to write a novel in 30 days/Three Weekends/Fifteen minutes but I’ve never taken them seriously.

Until now.

*cue dramatic music*

From now until I’ve read them all, I will be trying out each of these writing aid books and seeing what shakes out from following their direction. Some are more literal step-by-step guides to produce a manuscript while others are more tips, tricks, and viewpoints from an already successful author. I’ll have a review up each month to let you know my experience with each book.

First up is going to be No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. Technically this wasn’t part of the Humble Bundle, but hey, I wanted to be thematic for the whole National Novel Writing Month thing I’ve got going here.

(Yeesh, six hundred words to get to the review. It’s almost like I’m trying to pad some sort of word count or something…)

Chris Baty is the head-honcho of NaNoWriMo. He started the event among a close group of friends and developed it into an international event that invites all comers to bang out a fifty-thousand word novel just to prove that they can reach into themselves.  It gives people the excuse to dust off the story that they had always promised they would write “one day” but never thought they could really write, and lets them write it out in full. No Plot! No Problem? Gives readers the history and ideas behind what NaNoWriMo has become today as well as giving loads of guidance on how to accomplish a fifty-thousand word novel in a single month.

If it helps your personal journey, Baty is not totally beholden to the month of November. If that time frame doesn’t work for you then he would be delighted if you picked a more preferable month and held your own, personal NaNoWriMo.  The whole theme of the book is that all one needs to do for a successful NaNoWriMo experience is to simply sit down and write. Hit your daily word requirement with no excuses and to the exclusion of your normal daily life. Tell your inner editor to hush and get the story out.

No Plot? No Problem! Itself is a light-hearted collection of advice on how to NaNoWriMo including where to write, how to set a writing mood, how to prepare without burning yourself out, how to put aside any attempts at editing, and how to manage real life responsibilities whilst churning out 1,667 words a day. There are tips from former NaNoWriMo participants and a week by week guide to lead you through the month.

It’s a surprisingly funny book. I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud (or as the I’ve been informed the kids are calling it these days, lol) at a book about NaNoWriMo, but Baty has a sharp wit when relating his own writing experiences.

“Things went awry almost immediately. With nothing to do all day but write, I found myself doing everything but writing. Essential errands were run. Laundry was done. The bathroom was cleaned. Less essential errands were run. The bathroom was re-cleaned. A complex rooftop Habitrail system designed to make tree-to-tree transitioning easier for the neighborhood squirrels was built and nearly installed before the county’s animal services intervened. And so on.

The mounting guild I felt each evening over accomplishing so little writing during the day would then force me to cancel the plans I had made with friends that night. So I could stay in and get some writing done.

Night, of course, simply involved more work on the Habitrail.”

Per my own personal preferences, the advice offered in No Plot? No Problem! Neatly skirts the line between Solid, Practical Writing Advice and Tripping the Muse Fantastic nonsense. I have absolutely no patience with the idea of my character running away with the plot I have designed for them because oh goodness, don’t those characters have a mind of their own~! No. They don’t. They are mine, wholly and totally, and will serve the purposes I set out for them. Perhaps I am not a very whimsical person? Maybe I need to buy a prism or something. That being said, it’s very easy to heed the advice you want and skip over the advice that doesn’t apply to you. My eyes flitted over the small section about how to choose a Writing Totem but I lapped up every bit of the time management tips offered.

The week by week advice is my favorite portion of the book. It’s 75% carrot and 25% well-applied stick. Baty will cajole, encourage, and praise NaNoWriMo participants for making it this far and do his best to convince readers that if they just keep putting one foot ahead of another, they’ll make it through the month with their fifty thousand word count complete. He gives little booster exercises and both accepts writer’s frustrations while offering paths to move past them. This section is very similar to the weekly encouragement emails that NaNoWriMo participants receive and I’ve always found them to be a nice little life line. After your NaNoWriMo summit has been reached there is even a little bit of guidance in regard to editing that beast of a manuscript.

 Overall, I recommend No Plot? No Problem! As a read. If you’re a serial NaNoWriMo participant than buy it, and if you’re a writer just seeking overall advice then I super-duper-recommend you get it from the library at the very least.

OH HEY WAIT I FOUND THE BOOK BUNDLE! Okay, turns out it is a Story Bundle, which is different from a Humble Bundle even though they both work the exact same way with their you-name-it price levels and donations to charity. The National Novel Writing Month bundle is still available at the time of writing this entry (click here) if you wish to partake. I would keep an eye on the Story Bundles for sure because they are a super cheap way to beef up your e-book collection. Now that I’ve scanned over both it looks like Humble Bundles are more games and comic selections.

Buy both? Both. Both is good.

Daily Science Fiction and the Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Word Count

Breaking news!  By breaking, I of course mean, “I read about this last week and am just getting around to telling other people about it!”

Daily Science Fiction has moved their maximum accepted word count from 10k down to a lean 1.5k.  The announcement came and went as a header for a story with little fanfare, an e-mail I deleted because I am an idiot and reflexively delete stories once I am done reading them.  There was no notice on their Face Book page, nor any mention of it on the main DSF website that I could find other than an edited submissions page that reflects the new word count limit. I do not think this is a negative move, as the owners and editors of DSF may do as they very damn well please with their submission guidelines and, as I recall from my deleted e-mail, are moving towards shorter stories in response to their audience’s desire for a more true “quick-fix fiction” story in their inbox each day. This shorter word count will also strip away the longer stories typically published on Fridays.

DSF is a voracious market that demands literally hundreds of stories a year to keep pace with its publishing schedule and I can not blame them for moving to smaller stories for shorted processing times in regards to slush pile navigation and the necessary editing process that touches stories of all lengths. It also helps cut back on the cost of paying authors, which even as an author who has and will continue to submit to DSF, I don’t see this as a bad thing. DSF will keep their 8 cents a word payment and I respect that a lot. If this was a cost-saving maneuver on their behalf then I would prefer that they take shorter stories and maintain their status as a Qualifying Short Fiction Venue for SFWA.

Daily Science Fiction is an awesome market, and I highly encourage anyone with a shorty-short story to throw their hat into the slush pile.  No, wait, throw your story into the slush pile. You would probably ruin a hat doing that.

 

 

Third Week of NaNoWriMo: The Excusening

Week three! There has been… little improvement to be honest.  The word count has slowed to a slogging crawl. I’m happy that my local NaNoWriMo group will be meeting for a write-up tonight, as that will help push me over the 10k mark, but 50k is looking to be unobtainable this year.

But I have excuses! Good ones, even! I realize that excuses are the domain of those who hope to weasel out of work but hey, I gots ’em and you’re going to read ’em.

EXCUSE #1: I am helping to coordinate an illustrator signing at my local friendly comic book store. While it is a smallish event, it takes a lot of effort and time to organize and arrange a very small store into an acceptable event venue. This event includes not only the illustrator signing but children’s crafts, people in mascot costumes, baking tons of cookies for treats, and a Toys for Tots donations drive.

Did I mention this store is about the size of a one bedroom apartment? We’ve had signings before that turned out really well, and I want to make sure this is another success.

EXCUSE #2: Because I am using this NaNoWriMo to produce a first draft, I am breaking one of the main rules of NaNoWriMo in the fact that I’m doing research. There is a lot of me staring at the screen going, “Hm…why would a town be built this way? What would it take to run it? What Wikipedia articles should I bookmark?” and that does not lead to a rip-roaring pace for my word count. That being said, what I’ve done has been super useful thus far so hey, that is a good thing.

 

EXCUSE #3: I’ve become an adult with other stuff to do in my life? That isn’t really an excuse, it is, because lots of people with full time jobs and commutes and kids can crank out 50k.  But… I don’t like essentially abandoning my husband for month. It stressed me out last year to spend my time doing other things while the 1,667 daily words hung over my head.

I will push myself to write more, and by the end of the month I hope to have a fully detailed outline. A full first draft would be nice, but if I can get the world and magic system settled then I’ll consider it a good first push.

 

excuse #4 I’m cheating on this story by working on a short story as well. There’s a themed submission during January that I want to enter and I’ll need enough time to edit and whatnot, so that adds to my workload.

 

IN OTHER NEWS, I didn’t place in Writers of the Future again. At this point I just kind of shrug at the rejection e-mails from them. No biggie. I’ll keep trying, you’ll keep trying, we’ll all keep trying.

Second Week of NaNoWriMo aka That Sinking Feeling

I just received a cheerful little letter from the NaNoWriMo folks about the harsh reality that is the second week of trying to crank out 50k words in a month. They’re so sweet, full of understanding and encouragement and they have famous authors write letters to you to help you keep going.

How am I doing?  In summary: not so good.

If I go strictly by the metrics of “reaching 50k by maintaining a writing schedule of 1,667 words a day” then I am way-failing. I have about 6k words in the bank when I should be somewhere around… much higher than that.  At least ten thousand words higher than that. Getting that little “WINNER!” tag on my NaNo account for 2013 is quickly slipping out of my hands.

But if I go by another metric (which I realize is a total cop-out, yeah I know), then maybe I’m not doing so badly? My intention with this year’s NaNoWriMo is to crack out a first draft of a novel. While word count is a vital part of that as it indicates that I’m actually writing a story, I’m taking a slightly different tack. This year I’m incorporating the Snowflake Method into my NaNo. If you’re unfamiliar with the Snowflake Method, I highly suggest reading up on it. It’s a simple, yet in-depth way of outlining a story.

I tend to be an exploratory author, by which I mean I just sort of make things up as I go rather than adhering to an existing outline. That’s a fine method for short stories, where I can stand at the beginning of my plot and find the end within sight, but it don’t float to well with novel-length stories. There’s world building to be done, subplots to keep track of, character motivations to keep intact, and all the fun stuff that quickly becomes overwhelming if you try and keep it in your head. I make daily errand lists to keep track of what chores I need to do, so why not adapt my love of list-making to my writing? An outline is a little bit like a to-do list for a plot, right? Sure.

So far the outline is helping. Writing down one-sentence summaries of characters seems dippy, but it forces me to describe minor characters further than I normally would. If I spend a month in a writing experiment that leads me to a solid first draft then that’s good enough for me. I’ll be hung if you don’t find me scrabbling to churn out 20k words on the 29th-30th, but for now I’m content.

(And I’m putting this entry towards my word count. WHAT? It counts as a warm up exercise!)

NaNoWriMo 2013

Just when I think I’m out they drag me back in…

So! NaNoWriMo 2013 is nigh, and I’m once again participating. I told everyone last year that I just wanted to win it once and then I would be done with it, almost like a lower-tier bucket list achievement. Turns out I am a liar-liar, pants obstinately on fire kind of person because I’m going for it again.

BUT THIS TIME, WITH A PLAN!

Last year was a good push for the first draft of my first novel. I have just recently completed said first draft (it’s awful) and from what I’ve gathered, it’s good to step away from a manuscript to gain a fresh perspective before diving in for heavy editing and further mucking about. As it turns out, NaNoWriMo would provide exactly one month’s break from the draft, during which I can wring my brain out over the first draft for a new story. I’ve been hashing out a detailed outline to guide me beyond the realm of “Oh hey that’s a cool idea, now what do I do for the other 80,000 words of the story” phase.

Ambitions! Bullet lists of plot points! An excuse to go to a Starbucks and look pretentious! Ah, NaNoWriMo, how could I ever leave you?

Feel free to track my progress via the neat little thingy I put on the side of my site. Feel doubly free to harass me if I fall behind on the daily word count. If you’re participating, let’s be friends on the main site! Woo!