NaNoWriMo? NaNoWhyNot!

Despite the (almost) catchy title, this is something that I have been giving serious thought to.

For a few years, when November rolled around, I would trot out the coffee mugs and Moleskines, get my spreadsheets prepped and ready (or in later iterations, a new project in Scrivener), and settle down for the haul.

I won’t slow this narrative down with the details – you can learn about NaNoWriMo here if you aren’t already aware.

After a while, though, I started questioning my participation. I didn’t think I was getting anything out of it any more. I was, after all (or so I thought), already established in my writing routines. What need did I have for a gimicky, and grueling, month of writing?

But as with so many things in life, I have since learned to recognize my hubris. My writing, and my commitment to writing, aren’t as great as I used to believe they were. I, in fact, need the kick in the pants on occasion. And no matter what else may result from NaNoWriMo (and I don’t believe it will produce a great manuscript, at least not during the month of November), I do know that it will get me back into sitting down every day and writing.

And that’s something I actually want to do. I’ve done a lot of retrospectives the last few months. It makes sense, given everything that’s been going on. When it comes to writing, one of the things I’ve noticed is that the works I look back on most fondly are the ones I just had fun with. I’ve written (and tried to write) science fiction novels and fantasy epics, because these are how I entertain myself. But time and time again, when I look back at my past projects, the one project that sticks out in my mind as being the most fun I ever spent on a keyboard was when I wrote A Scent of Roses. That book, in a lot of ways, was a homage to every trashy paperback I read as a teen, every beat up cover I shelved working at the library in High School, every movie I watched late at night when no one could interrupt. It was fun.

I want to do that again. I think I had something good going when I went at it with the mindset of writing a bad B-movie. Write like Hammer Films is going to pick it up (hey, did you know they were still around?!?). But most of all, have fun writing.

Will I make it to 50k? Maybe. It’s been a while since I’ve had the energy or discipline to sit down and write any words on a given day, let alone the minimum average of 1,666 per day necessary to write 50k words in 30 days. But, I’m going to try. I’ve already prepped my family, repeatedly reminding them that November is approaching, that I’m going to be spending a lot of it writing. Most of them just wave a hand at me, but I understand, they’re distracted with Inktober.

In what makes a brave departure for me, I’ve also started on an outline. Or, rather, a week ago I started throwing all of my thoughts down in a doc. Over the next two weeks I want to flesh those ideas out a little more, bullet point them, and then do that dastardly thing where I arrange them so they almost make sense. And this, I think, I will call an outline. Or a notion.

I always hate making announcements on this blog, namely because I feel extra guilty if I fall short of achieving them. And yet, here I go. Watch this space – November will be peppered with weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress. Hopefully not more than that unless my writing is going especially well, because more than that means I’m blogging more than writing fiction, and that’s not productive. And if you are participating, feel free to buddy me. After some recent updates to their site, it looks like parts of my profile have vanished (including everyone I was a buddy with previously).

For me, it’s time to get ready for work before I spend the weekend doing Dad things – and outlining my November novel.

Of words and things

It’s early morning, and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. The resulting blog post could end up being slightly incoherent.

Last week, I finished the first draft of The Mermaid’s Tears. Not tooting any horns – it’s a hot mess, and I’m too burned out from writing it to want to fix it right now. But, it has a beginning, a muddle, and an ending, and there is at least some sense of closure to a story line buried in there somewhere. Pitmad is next week, and that’s pretty tempting despite the mess that is the novel as it stands (I mean, that’s what editing is for, right? Right?)

Meanwhile, the mental butter mill continues to churn on the next novel. As is the course of the things, I find myself muddling back and forth on outlining vs pantsing. Instincts of course say I should take the time to  outline the next book, find the direction it’s going to take, get a roadmap for speedy writing. The side that usually wins, though – and it’s not helped by a current reread of King’s On Writing, says outlining is for fools. What I need to do, what I really, really need to do, is just sit butt in chair and start getting those words out. “You know what the story is [vaguely] about,” that voice chides, “and you know where it ends [ish]. What’s the problem?”

And that’s the problem. I’m a glutton for diving right in. It’s usually a mess and I hate myself for doing it, but it’s so much fun along the way.

OK, coffee time. That next book isn’t writing itself.

Quiet of Late

I haven’t been blogging much of late. Truth be told, I haven’t been doing much of anything worthy of a blog post. I’ve been reading a lot, or at least trying to. I’m half way through the Fall of the Malazan Empire, a read through that’s been both rough at times (it is long), fulfilling at others. As promised, I’ve been taking breaks reading non-fiction, but also some other books. If you follow me on Goodreads, you know what I’ve been up to (mostly).

Of writing, though, there hasn’t been much to say. For a while, I was going through a “poor me” phase. To say my books aren’t selling is an understatement.

I realize, as does the astute reader, that this is the turning point. This is either where I throw in the towel, declare it a good run while it lasted, and walk away, or this is where I rally again.

Honestly, I hate giving up. In no small part because I made a promise with Chrysalis that there would be a sequel. A few weeks ago, I dusted off the draft I’d been working on and began giving it a thorough revision. My aim is not to drop too much, but to fix what needs corrections, patch up the parts that are just giant leaps of narrative, and then finish the novel. I’ve added about 10k words in the last week, which all things considered has a nice feeling.

This may also be the last time I pull out an old project and try to repair it.

My problem is that I have historically written without a solid plan for the story I’m working on. So called “pantsing” is great, and a lot of successful writers do it. But I’m not a successful writer, and it has bitten me far more often than it has helped me. Because for every exhilarating writing session of discovering something new in my story, there are all of the other times where the story falls flat and gets shelved. How many times have I pulled out my epic fantasy and “given it another go?” More often then I’ve recorded in this blog, that much I know.

The problem I am discovering is that I don’t like letting go of what I’ve written in the past. My creative bursts gift me with a typical 40-60k word chunk of narrative before I run out of steam. But once that steam is gone, I don’t know where to go and shelve the project until the next time I get a bite. Over, and over, and over.

Finishing Mermaid’s Tears will be the end of that cycle. I hope to have the first draft done by this summer, at which point I will reach out to a few beta readers that have been great to me in the past. Then I plan on buckling down and planning out a novel from the very beginning. No more recycling, no more reusing. All new, all fresh. And all planned.

In addition, I’ve pulled my two books from Kindle Select and redistributed them across multiple platforms. I’ve had zero sales since the initial release of Chrysalis. Because of that, I decided rather that if I was going to have zero sales, I might as well spread that across multiple booksellers. Effective a few weeks ago, you can find my books on Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and a half dozen other ebook sellers (links at the bottom of this post).

Meanwhile, it’s a cloudy Saturday here in Oregon, and I have a ton of errands to take care of before I take my eldest daughter to her last behind the wheel class before her test next week. Have a good weekend!

A Scent of Roses

Chrysalis