Posts Tagged ‘Nanowrimo’

From My Labors Rested

Thursday, July 30th, 2015


Well, another Nano has come to an end. I’ve added over 50,000 words to the HEX CODE manuscript, succeeding at the month’s 50K as of a few days ago, and last night I added the framework for the last few scenes that the revised story still needed, putting me way ahead of the game. Calling it done … for now, that is.

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-30a.png

It’s interesting to compare this with previous months, as I did before. Even after the huge push near the end, I didn’t quite catch up to the last time that I worked on HEX CODE. I must have been going gangbusters!

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-30b.png

I’d love to keep going, but I now see why in the past, whenever I hit the limit, my writing rate dropped off. By my calculations, I have five novels due over the next two years – one down into the final edits, one in rough draft, one (HEX CODE) almost complete, and two more in lesser stages of completion. So it’s good to take a breather … after climbing the mountain.

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-30c.png

Now, back to CLOCKWORK ….

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Twelfth

Sunday, July 26th, 2015


As of this afternoon, I have completed an additional 50,000 words on my Cinnamon Frost novel HEX CODE … making me an official winner of the Nanowrimo challenge twelve times. Woohoo!

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-26a.png

This was a good Nano, in that I stayed ahead of the game more than I thought I had. Even a couple of days I got physically sick helped me, as I holed up with my laptop and typed. Paradoxically, some of the best-feeling personal days I had this month I got no writing done at all. Yet, in the end, I managed to stay ahead, way ahead.

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-26b.png

But, while analyzing this data, I found out something else … I haven’t tackled Nanowrimo twelve times with one failure; I’ve tackled it fourteen times. You see, I remembered all the times I tackled Nanowrimo in November, and all the times I tackled Camp Nanowrimo, and even Script Frenzy. But ever since 2009, I’ve kept day-to-day word counts, and I found at least one more time I’ve tried Nano, in December of 2010. I was apparently having so much fun with CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE that I decided to keep going. Putting all this data together revealed something very interesting: this hasn’t been my best month at Nano.

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-26c.png

In a recent post, I said I thought I’d never been this consistently far ahead for this long, but was I wrong. Way wrong. In 2011, when I was tackling HEX CODE for the first time, I was so far ahead it’s crazy: several thousand words ahead of my best times on all the other months. Apparently I was going gangbusters. This month was close, up till Friday and Saturday where I fell off a bit and then had to take a day of for writing business stuff, but today after writing 4,500+ words I ended up only 8,000 words ahead, but at this time in November of 2011 I was almost 13,000 words ahead.

Cinnamon is such a delightful character, it doesn’t surprise me – though it does hurt your brain writing tens of thousands of words in broken English. Still, I’m really happy with how this book is developing. I realized, partway through this month, that this manuscript is actually the whole of the Spellpunk trilogy, and I reorganized it so the parts of #2 BOT NET and #3 ROOT USER were downstream of where I was writing, letting me focus on the story of HEX CODE #1, giving its own problems and climax. I think it’s gone quite well, giving the story room to breathe, making certain events more rational because they can happen over time in a natural sequence … and giving Cinnamon even more time to shine.

I’ll probably keep going on HEX CODE for a few more days making sure I core dump the rest of my story ideas, but then it will be back to editing THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE in time to send it to Debra, then revising SPECTRAL IRON in time to send it to beta readers, plus two stories for an upcoming anthology, then an essay, plus conference travel, oh finishing the Hugo reading and voting, plus that wedding, and wait shouldn’t I pay my bills aaaaaa ….

It’s a wonderful life. Back to it!

-the Centaur

Reading the Manual after Jumping from the Plane

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015


Still plugging away at HEX CODE. But even in the middle of Nanowrimo, when I’m desperate to make my word count before my upcoming adventures, even when I have a good feel for what needs to happen in the next scene … it still helps to do research. Above you see a pile of books fairly typical for working on Cinnamon Frost stories, plus one recreational one (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one from the negative space of the context) and here’s how they have helped me. For those just joining us, Cinnamon Frost is a teenage weretiger with Tourette’s Syndrome who grew up basically on the streets, and …

  • Chelsea Cain’s “Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture” helped me get in touch with something entirely outside my experience … growing up as a teenage weretiger in essentially a werekindred commune.
  • Brooks Landon’s “Building Great Sentences” audio course (of which I have the printed notes above) reminded me to keep vary the patterns in my sentences, which helps me (in my terms) “solve problems” as I try to deliver the information I need to keep the plot moving while maintaining the right rhythm.
  • Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf” also helped me get in touch with the experiences that someone in a marginalized community might have, though I wasn’t able use this idea in today’s writing session, it might come up soon.
  • Patrick Newman’s “Tracking the Weretiger” is just damn fascinating, and is helping me flesh out the plot of the rest of the “Dakota Frost, Skindancer” / “Cinnamon Frost, Spellpunk” / “Quarry” series.
  • The Jesus Seminar’s “The Parables of Jesus” is helping me flesh out the moral dimensions of the story, by deriving the moral stances of the more “heroic” characters from the more “authentic” parables (at least, according to the Seminar) and deriving the stances of the more morally gray characters from the more “questionable” parables. Of course, all Scripture is profitable for instruction … but some parts of it do seem to get Jesus’s message more on point than others, and by assigning a spectrum of goodness to different characters I get to play with a lot of interesting moral conundrums.
  • Mitzi Waltz’s Tourette’s Syndrome: “Finding Answers & Getting Help” is also useful for helping me portray the subtle aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome, which Cinnamon suffers from, but which is notoriously difficult to portray correctly without it devolving into caricature. It has given me new plot ideas for the whole book and actually makes some of Cinnamon’s weird behavior seem much more understandable, but I need to work it in.

As for the last book, for now it’s fun, but who knows, she’s a math genius, so maybe it will work in.

I didn’t read all of these over lunch, but I got a chapter or a half dozen pages of each, and as a consequence: I found out some interesting other conditions people might suffer from, gave them to a character, creating an instant conflict, and gave Cinnamon a new coping tool, leading to more conflict.

Easily three to five hundred words popped out of today’s salsa of reading, putting me way ahead:

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-07b.png

I’m doing my level headed best to not rest on my laurels though, as I have a LOT more to go:

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-07a.png

Still climbing that mountain. Still reading the manual as falling out of the plane. Still writing 1666+ words a day.


-the Centaur

Now this is a different way to start the month

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

July Nanowrimo 2015-07-02.png

Normally a couple of days into a Nanowrimo project I’m already a bit behind, wondering how I’ll catch up. Today I’m actually ahead for the second day in a row. Onward!

-the Centaur

Hustle and Bustle at the Library

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015


I’ve felt quite harried over the past few weeks … and talking with another author, I realized why.

In April, I finally finished my part of Dakota Frost #3, LIQUID FIRE – sending comments to the publisher Bell Bridge Books on the galley proofs, reviewing cover ideas, contributing to the back cover copy, writing blogposts. I also as part of Camp Nanowrimo finished a rough rough draft of Dakota Frost #4, SPECTRAL IRON. But at the same time, I had recently finished a short story, “Vogler’s Garden”, and have been sending it out to quite a few places.

In May, we expect LIQUID FIRE will be out, I have two stories in the anthology TWELVE HOURS LATER, and I have three guest blog posts coming out, one on “Science is Story: Science, Magic, and the Thin Line Between” on the National Novel Writing Month blog which has gotten some traction. And I’ll be speaking at the Clockwork Alchemy conference. Oh, and I’m about to start responding to Bell Bridge’s feedback on my fourth novel, THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE.

Holy cow. No wonder I feel so harried! But it’s all for a good cause.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a friend at work shattered his monitor and inadvertently made art.

I stand corrected

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015


I stand corrected. I thought I’d succeeded at Nanowrimo eleven times, and technically that’s true. But it turns out that I’ve taken on a Nano challenge thirteen times and succeeded at it twelve – because of Script Frenzy.

Screenshot 2015-05-02 21.48.28.png

Script Frenzy was the event that predated Camp Nanowrimo in April – a challenge to write 100 pages of a script in the month of April. I took on Script Frenzy once, in 2012 – I think that may have been the last year that it ran. Since 2014, I’ve been doing Camp Nanowrimo, and won at that twice. So every time I’ve taken on an official Nano challenge, I succeeded.

That’s a little over a half a million words. Wow.

But I took on Nano one more time, on my own – in August of 2014. Perhaps because I lacked the support of the community – this was an “unofficial” Nano on my part – or perhaps because the book needed more editing than writing, I only got 10,000 words into the challenge that month. But I’m still very happy how it turned out.

So, to confirm: viiictory, twelve times.

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Eleventh

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015


Woohoo! I just completed Camp Nanowrimo 2015, writing an extra 50,000 words on my novel SPECTRAL IRON! And, for special bonus points, I basically ran out of novel – I finished the end to end rough draft a few days ago, and to get the final few thousand words I had to actually go back through and start fleshing out and polishing! Double woohoo!

Camp Nanowrimo 2015-04-29.png

This makes this not just the eleventh time I’ve finished Nanowrimo, it makes it the first time I’ve finished a novel during the month. This draft will need a heck of a lot of editing, but it is finished end to end and I had to come up with some very inventive stuff to get it there in the month – which, as always, is the beauty of Nanowrimo.

Camp Nanowrimo 2015-04-29a.png

As you can see, I spent most of this month in the red, because I started off dealing with nine kinds of crazy. I actually can’t remember all the stuff that happened – I remember editing on LIQUID FIRE and nonsense at work and disasters at home and a truly horrific tax situation – or wait, i do remember it all, I just don’t want to.

Regardless, I was able to power through in three big chunks, getting close to 3000 words a day most days and 4000 to 5000 words a day when i really cut loose. And some of the things I discovered as I churned forward, cleaning up the plot, took the book from “where is this going” to “I can’t do that, can I?” to “O.M.G. that’s an AMAZING idea!” which I now love.

Lots to do to clean this up. Can’t really show an excerpt – all of this stuff is too near the end of the book. Spoilers.

But still … viiictory.

Now, on to the edits of … THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE! After a nap.

-the Centaur

North, South, East, West … and Wonder

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Camp Nanowrimo 2015-04-26.png

Has it only been 3 days? Since 1:37AM on Friday morning and now, I’ve written about 10,000 words. And I’m hoping to get 1,000 to 2,000 more words done tonight – ideally, 3,300 which will put me up to date on Camp Nanowrimo, so I can start to RELAX at last. But it’s left me a bit loopy, especially with static at work and from neighbors and with my wife’s art show coming up rapidly.

Oh hey, a quick aside on that:


You all should go to the Color Me Free show by my wife Sandi Billingsley, which starts this Friday at Kaleid Gallery in downtown San Jose – opening reception from 7 to 11, this Friday, May 1st.

Okay, back to procrastinating on these three thousand words. That looniness has been very, very creative! The story is really fleshing itself out in strange and unexpected ways. I quote a discussion with a fellow writer who’s helping me research the science of the magic of the faery kingdom. Looking it over … hmm … seems pretty spoiler-free. So here is what I told her:

I discovered something about the fae in the Dakota Frost universe which I totally think you will appreciate because you also design faerie worlds. I can explain to you more the next time I see you on Tuesday [at the Write to the End group], but I figured out where they’re from, why they left, how they got here, why they’re so weird about names and fates and everything, and even why faerie is strange and pathless!

Ok, the last one I got from that crocheting book [Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes]: faerie has hyperbolic geometry … and hyperbolic geometry cannot be contained in normal three dimensional space. It’s like having a map with north, south, east, west and one more direction – the map folds up, wrinkles up like those crocheted hyperbolic planes – and the worst part will be the boundary of the human and faerie worlds, where, forced into a place where it won’t fit, it ultimately wrinkles over and starts crossing over itself! Neat, eh?

Well, at least I think it’s neat. Faerie has five cardinal directions: North, South, East, West … and Wonder! How inspirational! Onward! Only … a whole normal day’s writing ahead of me. Aaa!

Still … onward, into wonder!

-the Centaur

Climbing the Mountain

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Camp Nanowrimo 2015-04-24.png

I recently was talking with Debra Dixon, my editor for the Dakota Frost series, and we realized that if we wanted SPECTRAL IRON, Dakota Frost #4, to come out next year, we needed to get a final book (from me) in her hands by January to have time to edit it before year was out.

Given that when we had this conversation we had not yet finished LIQUID FIRE (book 3) and I have yet to edit THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, this caused some understandable panic.

So, rather than keeping to my schedule to work on part 2 of PHANTOM SILVER (book 5) during this April, I decided to bump up my schedule and work on part 3 of SPECTRAL IRON so I’d have a draft done early this year.

I think it’s working – the story is coalescing – but as you can see from above, the copyediting and page proofing of LIQUID FIRE ate up a lot of my time to write SPECTRAL IRON.

So I’m scrambling. Probably few blog posts until this month’s 50,000 added words are done.



Viiiictory, Ten Times

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


Yaay! Once again, I have completed National Novel Writing Month … this will be my 10th successful Nano. I’ve only been doing it 9 years, but this year, I started tackling Nano more often – in April and August. April was a success, but August I found I wanted to do more editing than writing, so I’ve officially succeed at Nano just 10 times out of the 11.

November Nano 2014-11-26a.png

I’ll let the August one slide, as it was really ambitious (and I also really try to reserve the time leading up to October for preparation for 24 Hour Comics Day) but when November rolls around, I get serious. This is the time all of my novels are born, and when I see a month start off with the kind of deficit you see above, I get cracking.

November Nano 2014-11-26.png

I’m so serious about this, I take the whole week of Thanksgiving off every year just to work on this (something that is easier because my family is a rough plane ride back over Thanksgiving, and I see them every Christmas). But you know what? I want to enjoy my Thanksgiving … so I really poured on the juice near the end.

Screenshot 2014-11-26 15.09.24.png

The National Novel Writing Month site has some awesome word tracking tools, but I often turn off the Internet during Nano, and so I have developed my own Excel spreadsheet specifically for this purpose, which shows me, graphically, how much I need to write to get on track. Cells turn from red to white as I successfully get ahead of the game, and so by the end I was pushing 3-4000 words a day, trying to finish early. And I did, yesterday afternoon, at Panera Bread near my house.


PHANTOM SILVER is one of the oddest books I’ve worked on yet. The plot has taken many strange twists and turns, including some that popped out of a deep harvest of some of the older material in my massive cuttings file. It’s also turning into a deeply personal story, as my exploration of ghosts has led to an exploration of my characters’ ghosts, and, by extension, since my characters are often based on me and my family … I am exploring the ghosts of my own friends and family as well.


This picture was taken standing quite close to my father’s grave (not visible in the picture) and while my father won’t picture in the story … I’m having fun exploring Dakota Frost’s background, since she came from a (fictional) place in the South that is literally right up the street from where I grew up in real life.

But, as fun as it is … I’m glad to be done with this chunk. Already (since yesterday) I’ve finished a first draft of a short story in the Jeremiah Willstone universe (due at the end of December, for a Clockwork Alchemy special anthology) and I look forward to diving back into the editing of LIQUID FIRE, which is going *very* well. Hopefully you’ll see it soon.

No excerpts on PHANTOM SILVER, though; there are too many horrible spoilers for other books. You’ll have to wait on this one, and I know it will be a while, because SPECTRAL IRON and LIQUID FIRE and HEX CODE must come first; till next time.

-the Centaur