How much can you draw before they bring your food? Fountain at Front Page News L5P, again with no pencils.
How much can you draw before they bring your food? Fountain at Front Page News L5P, again with no pencils.
Got inspired by all the art at Dragon Con, particularly Comfort and Adam’s Guide to Self Publishing Comics which reminded me of my interview questions about my long stalled comic f@nu fiku … Time to break out the sketchbook again …
Hail, fellow adventurers! I’ll be back at Dragon Con again this year, with a great set of panels! Sometimes that includes dropping in on the Writing Track, but the ones we have officially scheduled so far are:
Also, I was scheduled to do a SAM Talk, but it was inadvertently booked over my author reading, and I pretty much have to prioritize my own author reading over a SAM Talk even if there might be more people at the other room. So if you attend my author reading, you may also get to hear what was intended to be my SAM Talk, “Risk Getting Worse”.
Hope to see you all there – from my end of the table, it kind of looks like this:
Here’s crossing fingers that we get the double booking all worked out!
Taking on a challenge like writing a novel can seem daunting. A good novel can range from 60,000 words for a young adult novel or a romance up to 360,000 word for a fantasy novel, with a typical length closer to 90,000 to 120,000 words. For perspective, a paragraph in a five-paragraph essay can be 100 words, so a 100,000 word novel like my first novel, FROST MOON, is like a thousand-paragraph essay. To someone who had trouble getting those 500 words down, that’s incredibly daunting.
Challenges like National Novel Writing Month can, paradoxically, make it easier. 50,000 words in a month seems daunting, but that’s only half a full-length novel, and even more so, it’s not 50,000 words of a finished novel: it’s 50,000 words of unpolished first draft. You can let yourself write drek you’re not proud of if it gets words on the page. If you’re the kind of person daunted by the thought of writing a whole novel, or paralyzed by perfectionism, National Novel Writing Month offers an easier path up the hill.
Still, it’s a long hill. And it can be daunting, no doubt. Especially if you tend to get behind, like I do, or if you tend to get trapped polishing your words, as I often do. You sometimes need tips and techniques to help yourself get past the stumbling blocks.
Here are a few of the ones that have worked for me in the past.
Your mileage may vary, of course, but these tips helped me.
Writing 50,000 words of rough draft is not writing a novel. You’ve got a lot more to go – between 10,000 and 310,000 words depending on whether you’re aiming at Goosebumps or George R. R. Martin. But if you can get 50,000 words under your belt, you’ll have the pleasure of looking back and realizing you can accomplish quite a climb.
Above you see a big pile of all the words I’ve written in National Novel Writing Month and related challenges, laid out horizontally by day of month and laid down vertically by the challenge in which I wrote them, creating an interesting strata effect, like words deposited by a geological process. This month marks my 20th attempt at Nano, 18 of which were successful:
Deliverance 2002 Nanowrimo WINNER Frost Moon 2007 Nanowrimo WINNER Blood Rock 2008 Nanowrimo WINNER Liquid Fire 2009 Nanowrimo WINNER Clockwork 2010 Nanowrimo WINNER Clockwork 2010 December Nano FAILED Hex Code 2011 Nanowrimo WINNER Clockwork 2012 Script Frenzy WINNER Spectral Iron 2012 Nanowrimo WINNER Marooned 2013 Nanowrimo WINNER Spectral Iron 2014 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER Spectral Iron 2014 August Nano FAILED Phantom Silver 2014 Nanowrimo WINNER Spectral Iron 2015 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER Hex Code 2015 Nanowrimo WINNER Phantom Silver 2016 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER Phantom Silver 2016 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER Spiritual Gold 2016 Nanowrimo WINNER Spiritual Gold 2017 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER Spiritual Gold 2017 Camp Nanowrimo WINNER
As I’ve noted before, the two in which I failed were “off months” where I tried to tackle Nanowrimo on my own. For me, it’s much harder without the external benefit of the contest, and on the two times I tried it I bombed out after a few days. You can see that in this graph, which shows the number of words I’m ahead or behind at each part of the month:
This graph means the most to me, because I was involved in the creation of it, and so intuitively understand it; if I see my monthly progress (the darkest line above) below the dotted line of the average, I know to worry; if I see it below my worst track for any part of the month, I know to really get cracking. Looks like the farthest behind I ever got (and succeeded) was 20,00 words behind, on LIQUID FIRE in 2009, and in PHANTOM SILVER in 2016.
But for people not intimately involved in laying down those tracks, the average amount ahead / behind per day is perhaps more useful:
This shows that a successful Nanowrimo participant can be very far ahead, or very far behind, and still win in the month. Do what works for you! There’s a lot of wiggle room in there.
But if you’re more interested in brass tacks, here’s the maximum and average amount I wrote in each day:
This shows that typically at the start of Nano I’m writing a little bit less than the needed word count per day, and at the end of Nano I’m writing a little bit more – but that the maximum I have to do each day is radically more than that – once almost 10,000 words (and that was a hell of a push, I can tell you – that was PHANTOM SILVER in July of 2016, and I was down to the wire, writing 7000 words in the last day – and finding the Camp Nano counter was 2000 words off of Microsoft Word’s count, so I had to generate 2,000 more words in the last couple of hours).
I will probably dig a bit more into SPIRITUAL over the last two days of the 30 day challenge (I know July has an extra day, but I can use the break). I’m not quite done – the manuscript is at 171,330 words, but maybe 20,000 to 30,000 words of that are in-manuscript notes that need to be turned into text, and then I have a lot I want to cut. During Nano, if I change my mind about how a scene is going, I don’t cut it and rewrite it, because that defeats the purpose of generating words; I write the word ALTERNATELY on its own line and rewrite the scene. After Nano, all that needs to get edited, merged and/or cut.
Often, I find that I’m not satisfied with the first rough draft text I produce in Nano. There are amazing gems in there, but also drek. But at the same time, I find that I am almost always very satisfied at having a text that flows through all the scenes I wanted to write. The idea of a scene in your head is just that – an idea. It’s not real until you write it. If you don’t write it, you can’t improve it – you’ll either long for it to be written, or you’ll elaborate on your idea of it in your head endlessly, or, worst of all, get caught up in the smug satisfaction of your own unfinished work, admiring the creation of something awesome that doesn’t actually exist.
But once you write it, you can see whether the idea works or not. You can decide to keep it, or refine it, or discard it. Even better, it springboards you – into new alternates for the same scene, or new ideas for what happens next, or new insights into your character, their plot, and the themes of your story.
Don’t just dream your story – write it down. Only by writing dreams down can you turn them into reality.
And Nanowrimo is a great place to get started with that. The 50,000 word challenge may seem impossible. It may not even seem like the kind of thing you want to do. No one is making you, after all: you don’t have to. But if your head is filling with ideas and you can’t get them out, why not take on an impossible seeming challenge to write 50,000 words of them down.
Believe me, it’s possible.
So, for the eighteenth time, I have won a National Novel Writing Month challenge … this time, the 50,000 word challenge for Camp Nano of July 2017!
The cafe I’m in is about to close, but I’m proud to say I (a) finished the 50,000 words a few days early so I can relax this weekend and (b) solved some problems in my manuscript, making it easier for me to reach that final finish line for Dakota Frost #6, SPIRITUAL GOLD!
More tomorrow when I have more time to reflect on getting this much closer to the end …
Well, we’re getting ahead of the curve at last on SPIRITUAL GOLD … two days ahead.
My writing retreat this weekend has paid off. I spent some time hanging out with the Treehouse Writers at the Linde Lane Tea Room in Dixon, California, then holed up in a hotel in downtown Davis, hanging out in bookstores and coffeehouses in an attempt to make some progress on SPIRITUAL GOLD. The actual day of the drive was a wash, but after that, I managed to get more than two days worth of words done in each day, and almost that today.
Now at last I’m ahead of the curve, and if I can stay there for a few more days, I’ll win Camp Nano. More importantly, however, I’ve marched forward in the manuscript so I’m around Chapter 37 out of roughly 50, with much of the text of the remainder partially written and merely needing some ironing out. With luck, I’ll finish SPIRITUAL GOLD at the end of the month, and shortly thereafter, and then can begin editing Dakota Frosts #4-#6 together as one big trilogy.
At last, caught up on Camp Nano. Taking a break. That is all.
As usual, it takes me some time to get back into a book, especially if I’ve spent the first few days of the month distracted by something like, uh, I dunno, scouting locations for the book.
But, now, after about a week of concerted work, I’m getting my legs under me. Blood remains in the water, but it is receding.
Should I include an excerpt? Ah, sure. Raw stuff, still needs more research, but, here you go:
“Hey, hey, hey,” I said. “Why would you want me to use the isolation tank?”
“Because Carrington got infected after a spirit journey she took here,” Heinz said. “A journey which just might have taken her into faerie, given our current theory. And since I have the magical affinity of a wet noodle, and wouldn’t know a faerie from a star on Broadway—”
“Troglodyte,” I muttered, glaring at him. “Fine, fine, fine, I’m the best suited for this … this suicide mission—”
“No!” Wilz said. “If you really think this will hurt you, no go. I don’t need the liability.”
I sighed, then stared at Heinz.
“In my professional judgment,” Heinz said, “if this was a normal infection, one of the hundreds of people who’ve used this isolation tank would already have been infected. If this was a magical infection, you would already have been infected by your prior exposure. And if there’s magic here at all … you’re the most likely one to find it.”
“Fine.” I said. “Fine—”
“I … will show you to the showers,” Wilz said.
Ten minutes later, I returned from a quick splashdown, holding tight to my body a big, warm, white fuzzy robe provided by Wilz, as Heinz looked at me with quite the smirk. I glared at him, then turned the glare on Wilz, who recoiled in a mix of surprise and curiosity.
“No commentary!” I said, peeling off the robe quickly, bare to my metal bikini. “Zipit!”
Wilz took the robe, then drew his hand across his mouth, glancing at Heinz.
“Okay,” Wilz said. “We’d rather not have to flush this water after each use, so—”
“Don’t say don’t pee in it,” I said, pointing at him. “I know that already! I’m an adult!”
“Yeah, well,” Heinz began.
“And you’re not!” I shot back.
“I didn’t personally put Doctor Orleans in the tank,” Wilz said. “I don’t know what was said, so I don’t know how to recreate the conditions that she, er, he, experienced while in there. All I can tell you is to lie down, to relax … and to keep your head above water.”
“I hope there’s a headrest,” I muttered.
“There is,” Wilz said. “Let me help you in—”
The Epsom salt laden water of the tank was warm, thick, almost tacky as I went in. The tank made soft booming noises as I moved, strangely muffled by the outer padding. Wilz helped me straighten out to level, then guided my head down to a horseshoe-shaped rest.
The door of the tank closed … and I was left in darkness.
So this is NOT the cover for Dakota Frost #6, SPIRITUAL GOLD …
… but it is what I’m using as a cover for my Camp Nanowrimo page for July.
For those not in the know, much of the Dakota Frost series is written during National Novel Writing Month and the related Camp Nanowrimo challenges. For each of these, I take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. This month, I’m working on Dakota Frost #6, SPIRITUAL GOLD.
Now, this may seem far away, as the latest Dakota Frost out is, #3, LIQUID FIRE, available wherever fine books are sold. But, to reduce the gap between books – and to increase the coherence between books, I’m writing the next three Dakota Frost books and the first three Cinnamon Frost books together, as one, giant, loosely-connected, six-part novel.
Dakota Frost’s next adventures have the working titles SPECTRAL IRON, PHANTOM SILVER, and SPIRITUAL GOLD. Running just behind each of these will be Cinnamon Frost’s first solo adventures, HEX CODE, BOT NET and ROOT USER. I’ve finished rough drafts of SPECTRAL IRON, PHANTOM SILVER, and HEX CODE, and hope to finish the rough draft of SPIRITUAL GOLD this month.
At that point, I’ll start trying to get the Dakota Frost trilogy beaten into shape, even though it will take me two more Nano pushes (at least) to finish up the slightly shorter Cinnamon Frost novels.
Regardless, hope to get these in your hands soon. Wish me luck!