NaNoWriMo

I’m embarking on a little writing exercise called ‘NaNoWriMo‘ this month…for those who know what this is, you know that calling it ‘little’ is silly. And for those who have never heard of it, here’s the deal:

NaNoWriMo is the short form for “National Novel Writing Month” … a web-based contest of sorts that is all about writing a novel in a month: 50, 000 words in November. It’s crazy! It’s coffee-fueled! It’s fun! It’s so freaking hard to do!

I tried last year, but after about a week life got in the way. It’s hard to work, take care of the kiddo (who enjoys getting up while it’s still dark outside), take care of everything else AND be creatively writing every single day. Because if you break the numbers down, you need to write 1,667 words a day to hit the target. That may not seem like a lot. And admittedly, at first it wasn’t. But as the days wore on and my patience wore out, I found myself with no plot to speak of and no writer’s itch to scratch.

So this year I’m trying again. But I’m sort of cheating. I’ve already started my second book (NaNo rules state you can have an outline but nothing previously written down). I’m about 20K words in and while I have other ideas for other books, I really want to get this one finished. So my goal during NaNoWriMo is to get a solid first draft done…or almost done. If I can get 50K works written down this month, I’m going to be so SO close to having a first draft. Now it will likely be messy, because one of the rules of NaNo month is NO EDITING. And there’s good reason for that. You could toil away on a chapter or two for the entire month and make them so polished they’re blinding, but that isn’t going to get the other 50 chapters finished. So I’m trying very hard not to edit, to be a ‘pantser’ (this is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, versus plotting a storyline), and to write every single day.

My alarm is set for 5am so I can at least get 30 minutes in uninterrupted. This morning I got 700 words written before the kiddo burst out of her room, raring to go at 5:30 am. But I managed to find time to write another 1k today, so at least for day one, I’m on track!

If you’re also doing NaNoWriMo this month, please let me know! I’m happy to offer support and tell you to stop procrastinating on Twitter and get to work. As long as you’ll do the same for me…

So I raise my overly caffeinated coffee mug to all who have done this successfully, or are giving it a go this year – happy NaNoWriMo!

 

Time: Speed up / Slow down

It’s rainy and cold outside, the kiddo has impetigo (so no school today), and I’m wishing I could bend time. The problem is, I need to bend it in both directions.

I’d like to speed things up, because I’m still waiting to hear back from two agents on my full manuscript (heard back from the third, who offered me a lovely rejection – and yes, there really is such a thing), plus a handful of freelance-related things.

I’d like to slow things down because I need to find some time amidst the chaos to focus on the work in progress I have on the go (to meet my first draft deadline of January 2013), and to create outlines for the other FOUR ideas I have for future projects. Le. Sigh.

One of my critique partners commented to me this weekend that I’m a sort of machine when it comes to writing — I assure you, I am not, but I do understand where she’s coming from. Her life is more complicated than mine at the moment, and complications leave little room for creative thinking and writing. Because no matter what, it still takes TIME to write. And complications mean everything just takes a little longer. But when I read about authors polishing off their fourth book in the past two years, while raising two little babies and running a household, or the newly agented author who finally snagged representation after writing FIVE manuscripts (this seems to be quite a common story), I’m flabbergasted at how they do it.

Where, I wonder, do they find the *bleeping* time?

On a good day — and by good I mean no impetigo, no other pressing deadlines, veins full of caffeine, and a brain full of character details, hooks, plotlines, and vision — I can knock off 1000 words an hour…for at least a couple of hours. But I’d have to do that every single day to accomplish what others seem to be doing. Ah, the usual compare if you dare game. Never ends well.

So ultimately, because I have yet to discover time manipulation, I’m going to have to remind myself of a couple of things:

1) Write every day — even if it’s 250 words

2) I really have no idea how others produce their content (maybe they have the Supernanny on retainer?), so I should stop worrying about them and worry about myself.

3) Chin up, buttercup! Life is good. Never forget writing fiction is a luxury.

However, if anyone knows how to slow down or speed up, I’m all ears…

Habits

First, an update on my query adventure…

32 queries sent

3 full manuscript requests (Woo hoo!)

12 rejections

So if you do the math, I’m still waiting on over half the queries to come in as ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. The last two requests came after I tweaked my query letter yet AGAIN (hair pulling has stopped temporarily), and I’m completely prepared to do more tweaks as needed. I’ve signed up for a webinar today about how to write a killer query and it comes with an agent critique — even if I don’t touch this query again there will be another book needing another query. I am determined to become BFF with my queries!

Which brings me to the topic of habits, specifically writing habits. I try to get up to write around 5:30am at least 3x a week. With coffee in hand and computer on lap, I write until the kidlet gets up. Sometimes I get an hour and a half; sometimes I get 30 minutes. But either way, it’s a habit that’s working for me. I learned my lesson with Life After Lilies — it took me nearly six years to write, and there were long stretches of time when I didn’t write a single word (like the first six months of my daughter’s life). It was always a challenge to get back into the story, to pick up where I’d left off. My writing box was filled with rusty tools after those breaks, and it took longer to get back into a good rhythm.

So with this next book (which I’ll talk about soon!) I was committed to a different process. I had a glorious weekend at home — alone — this past month and I wrote nearly 17,000 words that weekend. A great start. I’ve since added nearly another 4,000 words and because I’m so entrenched (in a good way) in the story, the plot teases me regularly. I can see the full story arc, and that’s exciting. I’m determined to complete this book by January 2013. Three months to go…

Do you have a writing habit? Would love to hear about it!

 

Writing the unexpected

So another Friday just passed, and yes, there was a rejection. Actually, this week there were 3 rejections in my inbox. But, there was also a (very exciting) full manuscript request yesterday! So the stats as they stand today:

15 queries sent / 2 full requests / 9 rejections / 4 no response (which are probably rejections – my experience is showing interest shows up quickly)

I’m going to talk more about queries and getting ready for submission in my next post, because I’ve learned some great tips along the way. But I wanted to mention this great workbook I came across called Writing the Breakout Novel’, by literary powerhouse Donald Maas.

The idea is to take your manuscript, or a work in progress, and put it through the paces of questioning EVERYTHING YOU’VE WRITTEN. Characters, plot, themes, premise…everything is fair game. It’s not meant to be a quick process. In fact, Mr. Maas says he expects the process to add not only significant time to your project (like, perhaps, years), but also length. But the end result will be worth it.

One of the interesting things this book talks about is the idea of writing the expected. Which is not what you want to do. I’ve had the experience of writing a particular scene and feeling all “Yes! This is flowing. This is good. This is exactly the way it should be written…” when the reality is that it may be flowing because it’s not a fresh idea. It’s familiar, which is why it feels easy to write. And if it’s familiar to me, it will also feel familiar (read: boring) to the reader. So this workbook forces you to question all these ‘familiar’ points – to dig deeper and write not the first, second, or even fifth idea that comes to mind, but rather go long and search for the fifteenth idea and use that.

I’m excited to see where this workbook takes not only my current novel (if I choose to put it through the process, which I just may), but also my second one that I’m working on right now.

Now to find a strategy to temper my impatience…

 

 

Gearing Up To Get An Agent!

I’m participating in this blogfest, run by Deana Barnhart, author and super supporter of other writers!

There are a number of ‘events’ happening over the next month, including pitch contests, but step one is to answer the following questions and to give a quick and dirty bio. So here goes…

Me on Me!

I’m 3 weeks away from my 40th birthday and am one of those annoying people who is actually excited about it. I’m also mom to a beautiful, brilliant and precocious 4-year-old daughter (and to the sweetest labradoodle), happy wife for 7 years and counting, a freelance writer, and a 9-year cancer survivor. In my spare time I run, bake, read, and write fiction — I’m in the querying process for book #1 and just started book #2, so I officially have a WIP (cue cheering!). One day (soon) I hope to be represented and published, and the plan is to keep writing until that day comes. Nice to meet you! { Also, I overuse exclamations ! and smiley faces : ) }

Where do you write? Absolutely everywhere! Kitchen table, backyard, couch, coffee shops…basically wherever I can find a spot for my laptop, I write.

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? My 4-year-old’s tin tea set and her Baby Alive doll. Oh, and my 4-year-old. This is my life : )

Favorite time to write? I prefer super early in the morning (5:30am – I have an early riser).

Drink of choice while writing? Coffee in the a.m. / Wine in the p.m.

When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? This is why I like writing in coffee shops – I like some white noise. I find a completely silent house distracting!

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? A conversation I had with a source when I was researching a magazine feature, and my own personal experience.

What’s your most valuable writing tip? Every writer should read two books, in my opinion: The Elements of Style (Strunk & White), and On Writing by Stephen King. Hands down the best out there!

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