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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Training my Dragon during NaNoWriMo

During NaNoWriMo, I trained my Dragon. I know you are thinking: “NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about writing words.” Silly you.

I got Dragon Naturally Speaking software a couple years ago. My husband knew I wanted to try speaking my writing. The next year, he bought me a new computer which had the Microsoft version of voice control, whatever it’s called.

To this day, I don’t use either of these tools.

Hey, it’s not my fault! I tried to train this silly Dragon, but not as regularly as I should have. I let it import my emails, my documents, and anything else it wanted in order to help it learn my writing style. Too bad it didn’t learn too much from that.

Several people recommended that I just read some of my writing to it. Because, yeah, I’ve got lots of time for recreational reading aloud. Don’t they know I’m supposed to be writing?

A few weeks ago, I saw this book titled 5000 Words per Hour. I thought the author must be crazy insane. But no, he had even managed 6000 words in an hour to add to his manuscript-all using Dragon software.

Okay, I write 1000 words per hour. I know this is a professional writer pace because I know professional writers who tell me that’s how much they write per hour. Shouldn’t I be happy with a thousand words per hour?

And then I remember that I have this awesome tool. The same tool Chris Fox, the amazing 6000 words per hour man, uses to do so much incredible writing. Shouldn’t I use this tool?

Obvious answer: yes.

So I decided to give it another try. That was on October 29. Yes the same October 29 that is exactly THREE days before National Novel Writing Month.

I must be insane. And why not? November, when I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, is all about insanity, isn’t it?

As soon as I got done with my Skype meeting with the amazing Chris Fox, I tried to use the Bluetooth headset that came with my Dragon Naturally Speaking. I never actually used it before, and apparently my computer did not recognize it.

So I pulled out my old Logitech headset and plugged it into the USB port. Aren’t Í cute?

And then I started talking. These are the words I said. Can you tell this by looking at them?

I think not.

While they were coming up on the screen, I felt so foolish. Shouldn’t I be typing? Isn’t that the way I get my words on the page?

While I speak, Dragon pad doesn’t tell me how many words I’ve spoken. I tend to think that I don’t know how long I’ve talked, but I could’ve typed it all faster.

dragonsRrealIn any case, I agreed with the masterful Chris Fox to give myself a goal every day during November and use Dragon.

Starting Monday, I will speak into this dictation box for ten minutes (slightly less time than it took me to speak this blog post). Then I’ll copy and paste my lovely words into Scrivener. And I’ll start the real writing (a.k.a. typing).

Depending on how well it goes, I will increase the number of minutes that I use Dragon every day. After all, I can’t get better if I don’t use it, right?

What’s your bet on this situation, reader? Will my Dragon be well-trained enough by the end of November that I can use him for my regular writing?

Maybe you already use Dragon. If so, give me your advice. It’s pretty apparent that I need it.

Giving Thanks for What I Love about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I think I say that on this blog every year.

But it’s true. And time has not changed this fact.

Why do I love thanksgiving so much? Let me see if I can show you with a few pictures.

The whole gang playing Settlers of Catan
The whole gang playing Settlers of Catan

 

The best part of Thanksgiving is gathering with my family. This year, we’re celebrating in Lincoln City at my sister’s new home.

Bluster. Beach. Baking.

Sounds like a perfect setting for the annual thanksgiving feast.

Feast?

That brings me to the food.

I love thanksgiving food. Turkey is healthy, too.

The things I love? Not so much. Cornbread stuffing slathered with turkey gravy. I could have an entire plate of that ambrosia.

 

 

thanksgiving dinnerAnd don’t forget the dessert. This year, I baked my sister’s favorite – cherry pie. Next year, it will probably be my father-in-law’s favorite – apple pie. Pretty much, if it’s pie – and there’s ice cream – I’m in.

desserts

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about you? What do you adore about Thanksgiving?

Finding a Novel Idea for NaNoWriMo

Ideas bombard me. A snippet of conversation or a newspaper article set my creative juices flowing. Does that mean I can use them to create a novel during NaNoWriMo?

Ideas for stories seep from my brain, pools of drool beneath the cheek of the exhausted.

Getting an idea is never a problem. Grasping hold of an idea that has potential to become a 50,000-word novel can be a cat of a different color.

This is when a novelist’s best friend comes in handy.

No, not the Internet. A specific craft book? As much as I love my Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, it isn’t going to do much during the idea stage.

Instead, I must follow my natural instincts. I need to ask “what if?” as often as possible until the potential for conflict in my story exceeds reason.

Asking questions is the best way to beef up a story and flesh a cool thought into an amazing plot.

And it should be a writer’s first instinct.

Even while making invitations with my future daughter, this ghoul raised its head. “I wonder how they ever came up with this.”

That was me thinking aloud. I watched hot air from the heat gun cause a metamorphosis. The microscopic flecks of embossing powder clinging to ink transformed into an artistic design of silver.

“I bet it was an accident.” My brain whirred with speculation, but I couldn’t come up with anything concrete because I don’t know what chemicals are colliding to make the embossed design.

Heat was the catalyst.

While you’re experimenting with your novel idea, remember this. If it seems like things are slowing down. Turn up the heat.

Let the ground crumble beneath your hero’s feet. Bring a man with a gun on the scene.

And I hope you started doing this last week – before National Novel Writing Month was in full swing.

Although, I have it on good authority that you can use any brainstorming you do today ( tomorrow, and for the next 25 days) as part of your word count total.

It’s not like anyone reads the jumble you paste into the verification window on www.nanowrimo.org. And if it pertains to your novel and you wrote it after midnight on November 1, it technically counts as words written on the project.

Come back on Monday for a few motivating tips.

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.