Writing Insanity

November. National Novel Writing Month. It’s a brotherhood of insane writers, pounding out 1,700 words per day for thirty days.
Since I’m rather unsure if I am meant to be a novelist, I may be a rebel again this year.
In 2014 I wrote that path. It netted four short stories, one of which I fleshed out into a 70,000-word novel.
A novel I pitched to three agents this past summer. All of them said the same things:

  • Women’s fiction must be at least 80,000 words and closer to 100,000 is better
  • The stakes need to be upped for at least one of the characters

All that to tell me I needed to rethink the story and add another 10,000 words at least.
But it hasn’t called to me.
However, I’ve planned and plotted a follow-up novel starring the youngest woman from that story. I could write that story in November.
Or I could write the next novella or two for the Christian romance “series” set in Sweet Grove, Texas.
After all, my debut in that Kindle World will be here in two weeks.


I’m hoping readers will be panting for the next installment, a story featuring minor characters from this first one.

What about doing something fun?

I’ve been jotting ideas for another fantasy novel for several months. I want to tackle the idea of a realm that exists outside of time encroaching on a world that exists inside the restrictions and constructions of time.

My thought is to have the mentor figure and the villain brothers who live in the timeless realm. They’re competing (as brothers do) and have gotten caught up in trying to trip each other up…by planting prophecies and information along the timeline in the world where time exists.
The story could include elemental magic with atypical sources.

But I really don’t have a story for it. Just a ton of vague ideas. And that’s NOT the best way to be a winner during National Novel Writing Month.
With the release coming up on the 15th and the content edits for REALITY EVER AFTER due on the 13th, I’m not certain I’ll have the focus for NaNoWriMo.

But how can I NOT do it? I’ve done it for three years and won every time. It’s such a morale booster.

Sure, it’s a little bit crazy, too. Especially when I only have three days per week to get my words written. And I’d want to finish by November 22 because we’re heading to the Oregon coast to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my sister.

If I’m not finished, the story will be hanging over my head the entire time.

Part of me wants to write something “just for fun” and another part of me knows I need to stop procrastinating and get stories down on paper.

What’s your advice? What would you do?

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How to Write 50,000 words this month

I’ve been a full-time writer since July of 2013. Since November of 2013, I’ve been participating in the insanity called National Novel Writing Month. But this year, things will look a little different on my calendar.

If you’re interested in what NaNoWriMo is or how it came to be, check out the official website here. There’s more than you’ll ever want to know.

Once you decide to join the craze (it’s a little late for 2016, but November 2017 will be here before you know it), check out my profile. My nanowrimo user name is slhughson. We can buddy up. It will be fun.

My writing schedule in 2016 will look slightly different than it has in the past several years. Why? Because I plan to continue substitute teaching two days per week AND I have an author event to plan and attend.

Yes, there are plenty of people who work full-time jobs and plan to write 1,667 words per day. At this pace, they will complete 50,000 words in the month of November and WIN NaNoWriMo (more on winning next week).

I admire them. I am not them, however. I am a full-time author who does some teaching in order to feed my writing habit. Because those royalty-only contracts don’t generate a paycheck that will cover the costs associated with writing.

Someday, I will write a best-seller and the royalty checks will look better than the $175 per day I earn subbing in a local classroom.

A Tale of Two Schedules

2014

I chose not to use last year because I had given myself an earlier deadline because we traveled to the beach the week of Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to cart my writing brain with me. By the end of November, it’s pretty much a frazzled bundle of haywire.

My writing schedule compasses only a five-day week. My husband is off work on weekends, and I like to be available so we can jaunt off to a home remodeling show or to the movies. And Sunday is not even my day. They don’t call it The Lord’s Day for nothing.

So, I look at the November calendar and decide how many full writing days I will have. In this case, twenty or less. I wanted to finish by November 25 so I would have the weekend of Thanksgiving free and time on the 26th to prep my pie and rolls (what I generally take to the Hughson family Thanksgiving feast).

50,000 divided by 17 (available writing days) meant I needed to write 2,941 words per day to reach my goal. So I set a goal of 3,000 per day (which is about three hours of writing for me if I get in the groove and nothing interrupts me).

According to the Nanowrimo website, I finished 50, 816 words by November 21.

That happened to be the Late Night Write-in at the local library. I lugged my laptop there and huddled with six or eight other novelists. They all rejoiced with me when I uploaded my novel and had the words verified before 10pm.

Winner! If you do the math, I averaged 3,387 words per day to accomplish the win.

It’s all about setting daily goals and meeting them.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Lock yourself into your writing space until the word count is achieved. Update the word count on nanowrimo.org and celebrate.

2016

Why does this year look so different? Why can’t I just schedule the 3,000 words per day and call it good?

Because I’m a realist.

And I don’t like to fall behind in the word count.

When I look at the calendar for November this year, I have to subtract two days from each of the first three weeks of the month (hoping I will substitute teach on those days).

Now a normal person might ask, “Why can’t you write after you’ve done a sub job?”

My brain will not be in a “writing space” after a day in the classroom. Even if it is a wonderful room filled with engaged students and an engaging lesson plan.

My introverted self will use up every drop of emotional energy to interact with people all day long. That’s a fact. I know it, so I can plan around it.

Of course, I’d like to finish the novel before Thanksgiving again this year. That holiday is on November 24, a little earlier than usual because the month starts on a Tuesday.

Let’s do the math. This is simple math. My writing brain can handle it.

Ten days.

I have ten days to write 50,000 words. Even I can do the division in my head. I need to write 5,000 words per day.

The good thing about my goals is I itemize them by week. Week one I must write 10,000 words. If for some reason I only reach 8,000 by end of day on Friday, I will force myself to write 2,000 on Saturday.

And, yes, I keep my word count in a spreadsheet. At least until I meet my daily and weekly goals.

By the time I attend my author event at the middle school on November 9, I will have written 15,000 words in a new novel.

Before I can enjoy the second weekend, I will need to have written 25,000 words. Halfway to completion before November 15.

Can I do it?

Yes. I’m determined I can.

How do you plan to meet your goals? (Please don’t say you don’t plan. Please. No plan is a plan to fail.) Share your wisdom in the comments.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author disc

What I’m Writing for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month is officially here. And I’m in the middle of the writing, which is why you will only see Monday posts from me during the month of November.

You know how I asked all of you for help deciding what to write about? I had four fantabulous ideas. I explained all of them to you here.

I even ran a poll on Facebook.

And then I woke up the week before November started with a fully formed new idea.

It happened to fit closer to my brand than any of the other ideas.

Worse yet (or is that better yet), I had asked women to pray specifically about what I should write next. The same day I got the idea, two of them messaged me to tell me they had prayed for me that very morning.

You know, the one when I woke up with an idea that wasn’t the one I had been outlining most of the previous week.

The one about elves that I was dying to write and all of you encouraged me to give in to the non-brand urge.

The morning when this new idea came to me, I couldn’t drum up even an ounce of excitement about Evendon and the elves. Magic held no appeal. Except for the romantic kind that joined two hearts by true love.

May I introduce you to an inspirational romance?

A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org
A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org

Abbie Andrews adores her job as a home healthcare aide and piano teacher. Does it bother her that her friends are about to graduate from college and start big time careers? Maybe a little.

When she meets the great-grandson of one long-time patient, things get a little wacky. Evan Winters is handsome and heartbroken. His initial anger turns to begrudging acceptance. Until his grandmother’s funeral.

Ex-soldier Evan Winters has no intention of giving his heart to the presumptuous pianist. No matter how much she smells like Spring or makes his heart sing. When she avoids him after Grandma Fedora’s funeral, he figures that’s the end of things.

Until a chance meeting brings her into his arms. Enter a matchmaking little brother who nurtures dreams of using Uncle Sam’s money to fund his college education, and things get a little interesting.

Will Evan find the faith he needs to convince Abbie that he’s more than a broken string on an antique piano? Can Abbie surrender her expectations to embrace the melody Evan awakens in her heart?

Oh yeah. This is technically an inspirational romance since there will be faith-based motivations, especially in Abbie’s life.

So, I thank you Abbie and Donna for the prayers. And, yes, I named my heroine after you because nothing else seemed to fit.

Wish me well. I plan to write 50,000 words or more before eating turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving Day.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		

What to Write in November? Help!

November is nearly here. That means National Novel Writing Month for all you non-writerly types. In other words, insane writing for thirty days. And I still don’t know what to write.

Today, I’m asking for your advice. I need your input on how to spend my 50,000 words (or more) in November.

It’s not like I don’t have any ideas. Ideas flood my mind at every odd moment day or night.

In fact, I have four ideas that all hold equal appeal to me. Mostly for different reasons.

Here are my ideas:

  1.  A time travel story about a female lawyer
  2.  The elf novel that’s plaguing me
  3.  A New Adult romance that’s a spin-off of the novel my beta readers are reading
  4.  Another collection of short stories

All great ideas, right? That doesn’t help me narrow it down to one. I can only write one during NaNoWriMo.

Idea #1

More than a decade ago, I started this story. Here’s the gist:

A young attorney struggles to defend a guilty client. She’s fallen so far from the faith of her childhood, but this feels like an assault on her ideology of justice. In a freak hiking accident, she’s transported through time to first century Jerusalem, where she comes face-to-face with the Christ she left behind.

Upon returning to conciousness, she quits her job and gives up all her fancy goodies. When she walks into a private law office hoping to find somewhere to utilize her degrees and skills, she meets a man who was in her “dream” about Jerusalem.

Why was he there? Is she imagining things? Was the encounter real?

She is on the path to facing down the ugly truth about herself because it’s the only way she can move forward in freedom.

This story crosses many genre lines so I’m not sure how marketable it would be. But it has many solid messages that I enjoy writing about in my fiction.

Also, it works in my new commitment to write women’s fiction.

Idea #2

Masked_heartsI’ve written two short stories set on Earth that are published with Roane Publishing. Click through to get the newest one for free.

But when I wrote the first novel, I did a lot of backstory. I realized there was easily a novel that should happen in the elven realm (Evendon).

Holt is taken hostage by a magical artifact collector and forced to lead the man and his mercenaries into his home realm. He slyly leads them to his sister’s neck of the woods, where she puts the three outsiders into an enchanted sleep.

Alyona returns to Earth to fetch her human boyfriend who specializes in finding and neutralizing magical objects. He goes into Evendon with her to help stop the bad guy. Of course, he’s one-quarter elf and has an innate magic, that begins to surge through him once he’s in the magical realm.

There he will reunite with his elven grandmother and face the truth about his heritage. And he’ll need to learn to control his magic if he’s going to stop the bad guy from retrieving an artifact that will help him access the dragon realm and a magical power that would breech the borders between the four realms forever.

I’m not supposed to be writing fantasy. I’ve decided to put fantasy on the back burner. But this story begs to be told.

And I already have two published stories that would tie into it so I could create a sales funnel.

Idea #3

This is the other idea that works with my new writing direction. Although it isn’t women’s fiction, it springboards off of the novel I’ve written.

The youngest narrator from my novel, Mercedes Glen, makes a life-altering decision to move to a different state to pursue a relationship with the man she loves. Her parents are opposed so her father cuts off her health insurance.

One of the part-time jobs she takes on brings all her insecurities about her ability to counsel teenagers to the forefront. Her boyfriend’s Greek Orthodox parents aren’t in favor of him marrying outside the faith, even though he is a member and minister of a non-denominational Christian church already.

Lots of conflict. Some sweet romance. And I love this character and I’m already familiar with her voice, plus I have the character study completed. This would be the easiest project to write.

Idea #4

Virtually Yours CoverI wrote a novella that was published in a collection with seven other romance authors. It’s off the market now and I’m subbing it to Roane for a sweet romance call they have open.

I have begun the second (much requested by readers of the first) installment of Marcus and Ronnie’s romance story. It would be another novella I might submit to my small publisher. I have a vague idea for a third installment. I could then put these up and have another series sales funnel to direct readers to my writing.

Even if Roane doesn’t pick up the first one, I could offer it for free as an independently published title to funnel into the other books in the series that I could release within a few weeks of each other.

This is the idea that seems the smartest marketing-wise.

But I despise marketing. I just want to write stories.

So, which idea do you think I should pursue in November? It’s nearly here. Cast your vote in the poll.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

 

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?

Five Motivators for Getting Unstuck during NaNo

If you’ve been writing long, you’ve heard it all. You tell someone you’ve got writer’s block and they pronounce some cure.

Writers everywhere have heard it a million times. We’ve all gotten advice about ways to get unstuck

1. Make a list

2. Fill up an index card (because it’s less daunting than a page)

3. Take a break to do something else – walking is always good

4. Write from a different perspective (I personally like to write a journal entry in first person from the perspective of the narrator of my current scene to get me inside his/her head

That’s not what this post is about.

The question I’m answering for you is “Why should I bother getting unstuck?”

Here are five reasons you should want to get past your “writer’s block” during National Novel Writing Month.

1. You Want to Win

Okay, everyone wants to win, right?

I mean, we say things like, “Everyone can’t be a winner.” Or “It’s not about winning but how you played the game.”

And we might even want to believe those things.

But you signed up to write a novel in thirty days. If you write 50,000 words, the NaNoWriMo organizers will call you a winner. They’ll give you some cool prizes.

You want to win. You know it’s true.

2. You have a Story

Maybe it’s been churning inside you for years. Maybe it’s been chewing its way out bit by bit for months.

There is a story inside you. It wants to be told. You can tell it. Right now.

Better yet, no one ever has to read what you write. Sometimes the thought of anyone seeing what our soul bled onto the page terrifies us.

If that’s your hang up, bury that baby.

Seriously. No one will read the words you paste into the verification window on November 30th.

You don’t have to let anyone read what you’re writing.

But your story wants to be told. So let that puppy out.

3. It’s Professional Writing Pace

Hundreds of writers churn out a few thousand words every day of their life. We call those people professional writers.

Sure, they get paid for their work. Possibly less than you think.

The point is, if you want to “do this writing thing” for real some day, now is the time to prove to yourself you can handle it. You can sit your rear in the chair and churn out thousands of words.

4. People are watching you

Not that you have to prove anything to those naysayers. It’s none of their business if you win this challenge or not.

Who are you kidding?

It will feel glorious to wave your fist in their face and say, “I wrote a novel in November.”

You can wave the winner’s certificate NaNoWriMo provides right under those stuck-up, know-it-all noses.

It will feel delightfully wonderful to finally show them up. And shut them up. For a few days anyway.

5. You aren’t a novelist until you FINISH a novel

Do you want to be one of those people who’s going to write a novel someday?

Or would you rather be that person who can claim “I wrote a novel”?

If you finish it, you will be a novelist.

Chant it to yourself, “I can finish this.”

Now stop reading this post and get back to writing that novel.

Only you can tell that story. And typing the last sentence is more rewarding than I could ever explain.

It’s Nearly November. You know what that means!

October waxes and wanes. Or is that the moon?

Either way, in just a few days the most insane month of the year will be upon us. If you’ve been following me for a least a year, you know what I’m talking about.

National Novel Writing Month

What is it?

November has been adopted by a group of industrious writers. They want to encourage and motivate everyone who has ever said, “I’d like to write a novel one day” do just that.

PrintSo they offer up a challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days.

For further details, check out their website.

In short, the project you begin on November 1 must be completely original. You’re welcome to have outlines, character sketches and other planning tools in place. You aren’t allowed to use any of those words to count toward the 50,000-word goal.

If you “win” (which means you write 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th), there are many sponsors who offer up prizes. My favorite scores: Scrivener for half price and a free upgraded membership at Scribophile.

What this means for my blog

This will be the third year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (the acronym for this event).

In 2013, I wrote the second book of my now-abandoned series Gates of Astrya. I wrote the entire first draft, about 63,000 words, in twenty-three days.

Twist of Lime CoverLast year, I was a NaNo Rebel. I wrote a collection of short stories, rather than a novel. If you recall, I hadn’t planned to participate at all.

And then my writing friend laid a guilt trip convinced me it was in the best interest of everyone if I did participate. Since I had set a goal of writing and attempting to find publishing homes for six short stories, I decided to use that creative time to write short stories. I made 50,000 words in twenty-one days.

This year, I’ll be crafting a novel. It’s the novel I mentioned a few weeks ago. The one that has its roots in a short story to be published in February by Month9Books. Since you haven’t seen me screaming about how the publisher loved the idea I outlined, it will probably be the book I’m polishing and trying to market next year.

Except I’ve got a few new plans and goals for writing in 2016. But more on that later. After the crunch of NaNoWriMo.

Since I’ll be spending all my words, energy and creativity on writing a novel in November, I’m only going to post on Mondays. That’s still five posts. My goal is to have all of them written even before you read these words.

Yes, most of them will be about NaNo. To all of my non-writing followers, I apologize. I’ll try to keep the posts short. Right now they have titles like “Finding a Novel Idea” and “Five Ways to Get Unstuck during NaNo.”

I hope you’ll stick with me during this blindingly creative season. On the other side, I might even have some wisdom to share.

Or at least some humorous anecdotes.

The NaNo Bug – and Why I can’t Catch it this year

Image from deviantart.com
Image from deviantart.com

November is National Novel Writing Month. This is an international event that encourages people to stop saying, “I’m going to write a book someday,” and sit down and do it.

I was introduced to this phenomenon five or six years ago. The librarian at the middle school where I worked instituted an Open Mic activity to encourage students to share their writing. She begged faculty to join the event so students wouldn’t be too shy to stand up and read their words.

At one such event, a language arts teacher heard me read the opening for a story I had written. The next day he sent me a flyer and link to National Novel Writing Month. His message:

“I think you’ve got a novel in you.”

At the time, I didn’t think I could commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The next three years, I was attending college and working full-time. I was lucky I found time to sleep. Write a novel? Not happening.

2013-Participant-Square-Button[1]Last year, I participated. I had finished the first book in my trilogy and was advised to write the entire story (three books) before returning to revise the first book. I attended an online writer’s conference in October to prepare myself mentally for the challenge.

A group of writers in my community meets monthly. They hosted a bunch of write-ins and other events to spark interest in NaNo. I was excited and nervous.

Bottom line: I won. For all the specifics, check out the post I wrote during my elation last year.

I’m not going to participate this year. You don’t have to write a novel, any sort of writing can count – poetry, non-fiction. I am hoping to turn out five short stories in November, but I haven’t signed up as a participant because it doesn’t feel right. It’s National Novel Writing Month. To participate, I should write a novel.

My reasons for not participating this year:

  1. I have two completed manuscripts that need rewriting, revising and editing.
  2. I want to branch out with short stories so I can get some publishing credits to beef up my author bio on the queries I’m sending out with my manuscript.
  3. A project called Doomsday Dragon needs to find its way to beta readers before the end of December, and it isn’t through the first edit yet.
  4. A project titled A Mother’s Pondering Heart needs to be rewritten and go through a first edit since it has been promised to beta readers in December.
  5. I need to finish some projects and begin to market them if I want to reach my goal of being published.
  6. I don’t really have a new idea ready to write into a novel. My mind has been focused on short stories and these revisions.

What do you think of National Novel Writing Month? Will you participate this year? Do you have better excuses for not participating than I have?

The Many Faces of Winning

2013-Winner-Square-ButtonIf you’re my friend on Facebook, you know I spent November writing between 2,000 and 5,000 words every weekday to “win” the distinction of writing a novel in 30 days. People wanted to know what the prizes were for winning.
Let me explain National Novel Writing Month.
The purpose of having a month focused on writing a novel is to generate excitement for reading and writing. The idea of writing 1667 words every day to complete 50,000 words in 30 days helps aspiring authors to understand a professional writing pace.
For more information, you should visit the website. The event has become internationally recognized. I was buddies with a woman in Ireland.
What do you win? There are five faces to winning National Novel Writing Month:
Bragging Rights
This competition is a big deal. People everywhere have heard about it. Over 300,000 writers signed up to participate this year. Only a fraction of them complete 50,000 words in 30 days.
I can say, “I wrote a novel in a month.” Can you?
Free and Reduced Price Goods
A ton of businesses sponsor this event. Their name gets bandied around by the thousands of participants. In exchange, they grant special offers to participants and winners. Yes, you can get a discount just for trying to write a book in a month.
Some of the sponsors this year were: Createspace, Scrivener (which I used to write my novel but had already purchased for full price months ago), Wattpad, Lulu.com, Storyist Software, Swoon Reads, Leanpub, Aeon Timeline, Jukepop Serials and eight others. Check out the list here.
A Network of Writing Allies
When I wrote this post, there were 79,635 users online at nanowrimo.org. That’s only a small percentage of total participation.
People I’ve never met friended me on Facebook and wrote encouraging comments on my word count updates. I returned the favor.
Published authors shared their wit and wisdom during the event. Most of the people I’ve met in the industry reach out to us newbies and offer authentic help. Networking is important in any industry but is especially helpful for beginning writers.
Enthusiasm for your Project
When days go by between visits to the fantasy world of my creation, I become less than excited about the story. I forget what my characters want and I lose touch with their voices.
Some writers experience drought during November, but I never stalled. Will every scene be perfect? Doubtful. I kept writing though and my characters threw in a few surprises.
I’ve been lukewarm about this project since scrapping my first attempt at the first book. I forced myself to go through the motions and write the new story. I didn’t connect with it though.
I’m connected now. I know when I go back and revise the first book, my knowledge of my characters and my passion for their story will make it stronger. All because I sat down with the intention of “winning” NaNoWriMo.
Success
I finished a book. In fact, I was done on November 23. The first day to officially “win” was November 25.
Writing requires diligence and the payoff is far in the future. Someday an agent will sign me. Someday my book will hit the shelves. Someday I’ll get a paycheck for my hours of labor.
When I finished this challenge, success became reality.
For a writer, these final three items are essential. Writing is a lonely profession. During my writing time, I interact solely with my cast of characters (oh, and my cat when he checks in on me from time to time).
Most of the time, no one knows how many words I’ve written in a day or how many hours it took me to write them. During November, we post our word count daily on the website. We’re encouraged to make status updates about it on Facebook. Accountability is one of the things that keeps fledgling writers from throwing in the towel halfway through the month.
Would I have liked a cash prize? Only a liar would say no. But the intrinsic value of winning the contest in its current format is priceless.
I now know that I can write at a 3,000 words per day pace. This is a professional rate of work. Once I revise the novel, I’ll know my revision rate. Then I can combine the two and be able to tell my agent and editor exactly how many books they can expect from me in a year. I’m going to guess either three or four.
That’s crazy! But it means I can do this “professional author” gig.
If I hadn’t won NaNo, I might still be wondering if I’d made the right decision in quitting my day job to pursue my dream.