Writing

Why I Never NaNo

I have held off writing this post until the end of the month because I didn’t want to “yuck anyone’s yum” as the kids say. I have no beef with other people participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but for me, NaNo is a no-go. And I wanted to write about it for the writers who feel discouraged that they struggle to do NaNo or don’t like to do it, especially when it seems like everyone is participating, except you.

I jokingly refer to NaNoWriMo as “No Words November” for me. Where other people see synergy and community, I find myself crushed beneath other people’s massive (for me) daily word counts. Comparison-itis hits, and it hits HARD. My soul dies incrementally at the beginning of November with each friend who participates and posts that they wrote 2,000+ words in a day. On a personal level, I am very happy for them that they’re making progress and don’t want to mute the word or my friends for a month, but my inner writer is screaming in panic as I am lucky if I get 500 words a day during November. The more I see the large numbers, the worse it gets to the point that I often get so far in my head that I stop writing in November. This has happened repeatedly.

This is a me problem. I know it is, and I know I need to work on my comparison-itis, but I think for people who tend to be slower writers or who don’t zero draft, NaNo feels like an insurmountable task. During the height of the semester, I’m lucky if I can get 10,000 words a month. Part of my personal grudge against NaNo is that it’s in November, which is when I am a) perpetually exhausted from the time change/weather b) under a mountain of grading because that’s when the long papers roll in. It’s just not a convenient time for me as a professor to be doing anything extra, let alone stretching way past my normal word count.

If we could shift NaNo to like June, that would be great. I vividly remember being in college and one of my friends having a meltdown because she was behind her NaNo goal and her schoolwork, which she sacrificed to write more. I wanted to shake her. NaNo is one month, grades are forever. The same rule applies as an adult with a job. I’m not sacrificing my mental health and totally stressing myself out for something that in the long run doesn’t matter. NaNo is just another month, just another arbitrary activity, and my life and worth doesn’t hinge on a word count.

My process also doesn’t work with NaNo. The typical wisdom is that you shouldn’t edit as you go, which I have to do. Editing is my warm-up before I start my next writing session, and it keeps me from having to do a massive amount of editing at the end of my draft. On top of that, I am a plantser/gardener. This means that I don’t usually have an outline before I start writing or, if I do, it’s on an act-by-act basis or only a few scenes ahead at a time. Not being a plotter means that either I have to zero draft (messy, scant rough draft), which I really don’t like to do, or I need to rapidly figure out where the hell I’m going. My lack of forethought does not lend itself to this process. I do not like cleaning up a mess. I am the kind of person who cleans the bowls and pans as they cook instead of dealing with a giant mess at the end. The same holds true for writing. Without being able to edit as I go or having the time to do so while writing so much, it really isn’t worth it for me as I will struggle to finish a book that requires that much editing.

Know yourself and your process should be the main takeaway from this blog post. If traditional NaNoWriMo works well with your writing process, then you should definitely go for it, but if it doesn’t work for you or the way you write, it might not make sense to go for 50k words in a month and wreck your mental health or manuscript. Every year the FOMO gets me during week 1 when everyone’s energy is high and they are so enthused, but once the stressed posts set in, I realize why I don’t torture myself. I know I would hitch my self-worth as a writer to those giant (for me) daily word counts, and things would not end well.

If you haven’t enjoyed NaNo this year but feel like it’s necessary or a hallmark of a “real” writer/author, it isn’t. I have never won NaNo. I have only tried twice and failed both times. Camp NaNo where I’ve stuck to a more reasonable word count goal is the only way I can do NaNo. I have eight books out with several more cooking, so don’t feel bad if NaNo just doesn’t jive for you. You certainly don’t need to do it in order to finish your manuscript or to find a supportive writing community. You can do that all on your own any month of the year.

Monthly Review · Writing

June 2016 in Review

In Review June

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

Now that I’m completely free from school and waist-deep in Dead Magic, I have been writing my little fingers off and being shockingly productive. Part of me is pleased and part of me is wondering when it will all come crashing to a halt.

What I accomplished in June:

  1. Wrote 21,000 words of Dead Magic
  2. Wrote 6 blog posts and a guest blog on Mariella Hunt’s website
  3. Published a Spanish translation of The Earl of Brass entitled El Conde de Latón, which is available here.
  4. Published the audiobook for The Winter Garden, which is available here.
  5. Planned out the beats for a forthcoming Ingenious Mechanical Devices novella
  6. Read 4 books
    1. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg (2 stars)
    2. Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K.M. Claude (4.5 stars)
    3. Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (4 stars)
    4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (5 stars)

What I hope to achieve in July:

  1. Write 20,ooo words of Dead Magic
  2. Write 10,000 words of the unnamed novella
  3. Write 6 blog posts
  4. Work more on my syllabus for freshman writing
  5. Work on the cover for Dead Magic with my designer
  6. Read 3 books
  7. Enjoy life in between everything mentioned above

I love watching my word count steadily increase from month to month. June was wonderful in terms of productivity. I feel like I got so much done and that the rest of Dead Magic should go smoothly now that I’ve hit the 2/3s mark.

There are quite a few balls in the air with my series. I have my Spanish translator working on The Winter Garden, my Italian and Portuguese translators working on The Earl of Brass, and my narrator is working on the audiobook for The Earl and the Artificer. Then I have Dead Magic to start wrapping up soon and the novella I’ve been plotting. I’m confident it will all get done, and that I can manage.

I’m seriously excited about my writing projects. Ideas are bubbling out of me, and now if only my productivity could keep up with my ideas. The one thing that was completely neglected in June was editing. I told myself I would edit chapters 1-8, but in the end, I decided to dump that idea. I’ve been spot editing as I go, fixing issues that arise or adding foreshadowing of future chapters, but at this point, editing without being finished or having a clear goal in mind seems pointless.

Right now, my tentative release date for Dead Magic is November 15th, BUT if the book is done before then, I will happily move the date forward. I’m really hoping the book will be out sooner than that.

Finally, I will be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo and am sharing a cabin with some fantastic authors. What will you be doing this July?

Monthly Review · Writing

July in Review

Starting in January, I decided it would be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

July was an oddly productive month. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this happened, but I think a good part of it is that I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, which forced me to be disciplined about my writing routine, and that I made sure to replenish my writing mojo by feeding my creativity with outings and good books.

What I did accomplish:

  1. Wrote 20,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer (The Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3), which equates to about 5 chapters
  2. Met my Camp NaNoWriMo word count goal + 5,000 words
  3. Read Cold Magic (The Spiritwalker Trilogy, #1) by Kate Elliott and Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn
  4. Finished proofing the audiobook for The Earl of Brass (IMD #1)
  5. Got the ball rolling on the audiobook for The Winter Garden (IMD #2)
  6. Fixed/”finalized” blurb for The Earl and the Artificer
  7. Balanced writing, fun, and life better

Goals for August:

  1. Write 15,000 words of The Earl and the Artificer
  2. Finish and send “An Oxford Holiday” to my beta readers
  3. Read 2-3 books
  4. Build up my daily word count and work on a plan for when grad school classes start again
  5. Continue to strive to write instead of striving for perfection

For once, I went above and beyond with my goals this month. Usually I find myself groaning when I reread my goals from the previous month because I’ve missed the mark on around half of them. In July, I exceeded my word count goal by 5,000 words, finished my audiobook (which should be available in a week or two), and was still able to read on the side. The Earl and the Artificer is finally cruising along and coming into its own (FINALLY). Seriously, this book was dragging so badly for a while, and it was all me. I needed to get my ducks in a row and really figure out where the story was going. By digging in and plowing through to meet my word count, there was no time to “get stuck” or make excuses as to why I wasn’t writing. Instead of taking a day or two to figure things I out, I consulted the color-coded outline I made and kept on going. One of the things that I think helped a lot was downloading one of these word count tracking spreadsheets. All you do is add the amount of words you wrote that day, and it takes it out of the your monthly or yearly goals. It’s a hundred times better than anything I could have made.

The downside to being so productive with book 3 is that I totally put “An Oxford Holiday” to the side. I’m still about 80% through it, but I need to take a day or two and wrap it before I give it a quick edit and send it off to the beta readers. It will be done by the end of August, but obviously the larger project takes precedence. I also need to convince my cover artist to make me a simplified cover for “An Oxford Holiday”.

This month I turned twenty-four, and I’m incredibly amazed by what I’ve done in the past year. Last year around this time, I had just published my first book and had no idea what I was doing. Now, I feel much more confident in my abilities, and I have two books out and four poems published in different literary magazines. Hopefully by the time I’m twenty-five, I’ll have at least three books out and a few short stories. It still amazes me how far I’ve come in a short space of time and how much I’ve learned. During the month, I hope to read Susan Kaye Quinn’s For Love or Money to add to my knowledge of author entrepreneurship.

While I’m looking forward to August and what I will hopefully accomplish, I know I have lost certain things to my goals. The main thing is cutting back on blog posts, but I’m pretty okay with that. People seem to be responding to my update posts as well as they did my other ones.

To wrap up, I have two posts to make note of:

I’m running a Goodreads giveaway of 2 paperbacks of The Earl of Brass and I did a guest post for the lovely Kate M. Colby about creating realistic characters.


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Writing

Writing and Food Poisoning

I am one of those people who rarely ever gets the stomach virus. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with it, and when I say years, I mean, at least ten because I think I was in middle school the last time I threw up. This past week I felt bloody awful.

In a few of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo, which means for the month of July, I am trying to write 15,000 words, which would double what I have thus far of my manuscript. I was incredibly excited about the challenge of this, and within a few days, I made it a nightly ritual to write each night before bed, usually at least 500 words. I wanted to break away from being a feast or famine writer and write every day instead even if I didn’t really feel like it. It was going really well… until the 10th.

nanowrimoI made it through my day at work, and I didn’t feel that great. I felt dizzy, but sometimes my sinuses get clogged and I didn’t think much of it. Friday night, I felt horrible. Nauseous, dizzy, horrible headache, absolutely miserable. I sat staring at my computer with my outline beside me unable to do anything. Flipping tabs to my Camp Nanowrimo graph, I sighed. There goes the writing streak. I ended up shutting off my computer and going to bed at eleven.

The entire weekend I felt off. Just inexplicably sick without having any outward symptoms. I thought I was crazy. As I sat there pecking out as many words as I could before I burned out, I tried to figure out if the nausea was in my head or if I really felt sick. This continued for several days and probably reached its worst on Monday. Tuesday, the symptoms finally seemed to ease. I no longer felt like my head was going to blow off and every movement didn’t make me seal my lips against the threat of vomit. In the past I have had sinus infections that led to dizziness and nausea, so I figured that’s what it was and it would go away in a week or two. The same day, my mom calls and tells me that Shoprite called everyone who bought the frozen, prepared chicken we ate on Thursday because it had been contaminated with Salmonella.

Can I just say that food poisoning is miserable no matter how mild. I know some people become violently ill and can barely leave the bathroom, but this was like nothing I have felt in a long time. If you feel lousy, you probably do. I don’t know if other people sit there wondering if they really feel sick or if it’s all in their heads, but trust your instincts, you’re probably sick and it’s okay to take a step back and recuperate for a day or two instead of stressing over what you haven’t done. More than likely it isn’t getting done well when you’re sick as a dog anyway.

The entire time I wasn’t feeling well, I was so afraid I would stop writing and ditch my Camp Nanowrimo challenge. I ended up skipping a day (the 10th), but the next day, despite feeling crappy, I kept writing and recovered. Thus far, I am way ahead of my challenge goal for the day, and by the end of the month, I’ll have written closer to 20,000 words than the 15,000 I set out to write at the beginning of the month. Now, to get back to writing!

PS- Stay away from frozen prepared chicken. It doesn’t taste that good, and the food poisoning is not worth it.

Writing

Camp Nanowrimo

This year I have decided to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. If you have never heard of it, Nanowrimo is short for national novel writing month. Normally, Nanorwrimo takes place in the fall, and the goal is to finish 50,000 words in a month. Camp Nanowrimo differs in that you only set a goal of however many pages you want to write. In my case, it’s 15,000 words, which means to meets to meet that goal, I have to write about 500 words a day.

Typically, I don’t do Nanowrimo. When I first heard the premise of it a few years ago, I scoffed at it. My friend, who was taking a full load of university classes at the time, was on the brink of tears daily because she couldn’t juggle all of her coursework and writing about 1,667 words a day. It didn’t seem like it was worth the stress. In the spring, I was invited by my fellow writer friend Kate M. Colby to participate in the first session of Camp Nanowrimo. Still dubious about the idea, I joined and gave myself a goal of 15,000 words. Unfortunately, it was April, which is the big crunch before final papers and projects were due. I updated exactly once the entire month. It was demoralizing to say the least to watch the number you needed per day to meet your goal grow while you can only type out a hundred words or so a day while writing a twenty page essay. Too bad the paper didn’t count toward my Nanowrimo goal.

Once again, Kate invited me to be part of her cabin for July Nanowrimo. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it again. I had been having writers block on and off with The Earl and the Artificer and wasn’t really getting anyway. My anxiety was rising because I need to turn it in to my professor/advisor at some point since it’s my thesis project. Did I really want to add stress by tacking on a daily word count? Hesitantly, I agreed. The worst I could do was not write and drag the cabin’s word count down (sorry, cabin mates).

I am so happy I did. In my last post (June in Review), I mentioned that one of my goals for July is to stop focusing on perfection and focus on writing. My perfectionist tendencies were holding me back and paralyzing my writing. With my Camp Nanowrimo writing, I know I need to write about 500 words per day to meet my goal. In the big scheme of things, 500 words isn’t that much and comes out to maybe half a page to a page, depending on whether the scene is dialogue-heavy. Thus far, I have written 2,035 words in the past 3 days, and while that isn’t much for some writers, it’s probably more than I have written for that book in two weeks.

Why does it work? I’m not a hundred percent sure. Part of it, I think, is that there are other writers in your cabin doing the same thing. You aren’t all going for the same goal, but you’re all writing. There’s a message board where you can post or ask for help or congratulate someone else on doing well with their goals. It’s a bit of synergy even if you aren’t close by. Everyone sets a goal that is specific to them, so there isn’t any peer pressure to write 60,000 words in a month. It’s relaxing, and because I don’t have any classes or pressing work, I can leisurely write and update my progress without worrying when I’m going to squeeze it in. One of the things I have noticed while working toward my Camp Nanowrimo goal is that I do my most productive writing from 11 PM to 1:30 AM. I think it’s easier to focus once everyone else (including the dogs) has gone to bed, and at that point, I’m a little tired and am not as uptight about my work. The next day, I do a little tinkering before I work again on my next session.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo or any writing retreats this summer?


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