Weekly Musing: 2015 NaNoWriMo Update

Unlike the previous two years I decided not to do a weekly NaNoWriMo update. With monthly updates regarding revising a novel I didn’t think posting about a different WIP would be interesting. Instead I thought just one post would be sufficient.

As of when this hits, I should be close to that glorious 50,000 word mark or beyond it. However, this doesn’t mean the story itself is done. By my rough estimate I’ve got probably a couple more weeks left to finish it. Not sure how many words it will be in the end but it certainly won’t be anything close to the behemoth of a rough draft my historical fiction book was.

Going into NaNoWriMo this year, I had a vague idea story in my head. I wrote down a few key scenes on notecards and was prepared to wing it. Since my focus the last few months has been on historical fiction I wanted this book to be in a different genre. I like doing this because it gives my mind a break as well as allows me to play around in a completely different world.

Primarily inspired by Halloween I decided to the main character should be a witch. I wanted to stay away from some of the familiar tropes. For example, she’s not an ugly old hag yet she’s not overly pretty or beautiful. Also she’s not either purely good or purely evil and she’s not part of a coven. Definitely more of a loner type as she lives in the woods with her faithful dog until an old acquaintance appears on her doorstep. Adventure ensues. Not very well and probably not very coherent in many spots, but the story is for fun. I’m not sure at this point if I want to revise this or not.

A few differences I’ve noticed this year from the previous two years is I feel like I have a far better grasp on the concept of what makes a chapter. I also feel like I have a better idea of how to end a chapter on a note that makes a reader turn the page. Again, this is a very rough, terrible draft but as I’ve been writing, I can feel a natural rhythm dictating each chapter. This is most likely due in large part with working on a chapter a day for the other book so my mind has gotten into a grove.

Another difference is this hasn’t been as stressful as years past. In 2013 I was in the process of planning a cross country move. Last year I used NaNoWriMo as a jumping off point to write my historical fiction novel. Going into that I knew it was going to be vastly longer than 50,000 words. This year, with the exception of the last week or so, it hasn’t been that stressful. There’s no pressure I’m placing on myself and as I mentioned above, I’m not sure I’ll be revising this next year. I’m enjoying the story and the characters for what they are and trying something new.

The other big thing, and this is something that’s been developing more over the whole year rather than during this month, is I’m able to consistently able to write above the 1,667 words/day goal. I’ve always been one of those people able to write well over a 1,000 words/day just because I’m incredibly wordy to begin with. But this year I seem to have upped the ante a bit.

So for everyone out there who participated in NaNoWriMo, I hope the month went well for you. And even if you didn’t meet the 50,000 word goal or finish the story, that’s okay. Look at November as the month you began your novel. Use the momentum and routine you developed this month and carry that over into December and beyond.


Weekly Musing: Ding, Ding, Round Two is Over

Well, I am done with the second revision of my novel. Hooray! This will be the last post about it. It’s a relief getting it before the end of the month. This gives me a few days off to rest my mind before I start prepping for NaNoWriMo.

As before, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned going through the process of learning how to revise a novel.

Realistic Expectations for My Process: I’ve already promised myself that for round 3 I am going to allow myself about 6 months to get revisions done. All my deadlines have been self-imposed because without them I fear I won’t ever actually learn what my process is. It’s also a kick in the ass to get over my anxiety and get it done.

But I think the 4 month deadline isn’t very healthy for me. That’s why for round 3 I am going to give myself more time since it will be the first time I will be revising the story from point A to point Z instead of by character. I’ll be truly reading it as a reader would be reading it.

Plugging Plot Holes: While I think I’ve managed to plug up some of the plot holes, especially as I switched from one main character to the other, there are still many more. This is another reason why I’m going to give myself 6 months to get through the round of revisions. I’m sure I will be drafting new chapters unless I can figure out a way to convert what I’ve already written. Sooner I can get those holes filled in, the better. It is my goal that once I am done with the third pass, each revision after will be more in line with simply polishing the manuscript and getting feedback.

Realistic Expectations for the Manuscript: This ties in a little bit with plugging the plot holes. Right now the novel is still quite a mess. That’s okay. I finally feel like the time line is coming together as well as my understanding of the characters.

I realize that my chapters as they stand are far too long. I have numerous chapters which are over 2,500 words which may not sound too bad but when an overwhelming majority of the chapters are that length, reader fatigue should be considered especially nowadays. That being said, historical fiction books tend to be pretty lengthy and long chapters aren’t unusual.

On the other hand, it’s about the flow of the story. Will having long chapter after long chapter really serve the story? Can I get away with paring down several of the long chapters and still get the story across? What chapters can be sacrificed? Already I cut several from the rough draft. I also added in several scenes.

Looking back at the breakdown of words per character, one of the two main characters has about 20,000 more words than the other does. At this point I don’t feel this is a bad thing. I’ve never been shooting for a perfect 50/50 for the story, but is that balance fair to the story and the characters?

Research: It’s a bitch at times. I’m sure it will continue to be going into round 3. However I hope to continue to utilize cheat sheets of info. I think it will be great to do this for important historical events so I can quickly refer to what would be key to my story.

It amazes me how often I looked back in my books and previous research for more than just a simple line about a battle, for example, and not finding much. Or being able to nail down people’s movements after a major event. I have a hard time believing people just disappeared for a few months. You would think the books I have would contain such valuable information. Apparently not. And these are history books written by well-respected historians on this particular subject.

Or realizing that there are some seemingly easy questions I’ve asked but had problems finding the answers. A lot of hours spent on different websites to find these answers or cross-referencing answers only to discover conflicting information. That’s when I whipped out my privilege as a writer to go with my gut keeping in mind it is fiction first. If someone wants historical fact then read history books.

Playlists Don’t Help: Oddly enough, listening to music somewhat of the time period or which match with a mood didn’t actually help me. If anything it was a bigger distraction. Didn’t matter if it was playlist I created or someone else’s. Eventually I gave up and went back to listening to classical music or non-annoying electronica music.

Briefly, just a couple of stats of my book as it stands. So far I have 51 chapters for a total of 127,759 words. That is a lot of words but again, one of the beauties of historical fiction is longer is fine. That doesn’t mean I want to pad the pages with fluff. This is also down from the initial rough draft which was about 155,000 words.

I’m getting there and do think the second draft is pretty much the story I’ve struggled to get just right. Overall I’m hopeful for each revision from here on out. I don’t know if I think things will get easier. I want them to as I had no clue just how much work this was going to be. At times it was frustrating but ultimately, it is incredibly satisfying. Not sure when I will start again; not until 2016 and probably no sooner than February.



Weekly Musing: Step Aside Sucktember

Ahhh, September has come and gone. With its passing, thank goodness, it means it’s time for another update on how revisions are going for my WIP. For some reason only the fickle writing gods know, there appears to be this pattern where every other month my progress on this novel has sucked.

I started September with so much hope. After all I was on a roll after a horrendous start back in July. I was certain I would be able to keep my momentum going. Since my brain was fatigued, I went ahead and took a few days off as it allowed me to sorta shake off one character before I dived into the other main character. It helped to take a small vacation spending a few days with friends at a lake house that we rented for the weekend. I rarely take vacations and while I did bring my laptop, I only touched my laptop once or twice and that was to check emails and whatnot.

While I came back from vacation incredibly tired, I passed that off to the feeling you sometimes get of needing a vacation from vacation. Physically I wasn’t quite there but at least mentally I was ready to go.

That’s when September turned into Sucktember. Apparently I came back with some kind of horrible cold/flu/plague that made me miserable for a week and a half. Oh, there were a couple of days I did write a chapter or two, but I’ll be shocked if during the next round of revisions those chapters are coherent. They seemed liked they might have made sense at the time I typed them up. Other than those two days, I spent the rest of the time curled up in a ball shivering and sweating through all the¬†PJs I own while my cat, and the husband,¬†watched over me.

Naturally being sick and having gone on vacation put me way behind my own self-imposed schedule. It also killed any momentum I had from August. This made me quite grumpy and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get caught up. A sense of panic set in counting up how long it will take me to finish crept inside my addled brain. After all, my male character started off with about 21 chapters that needed to be revised. This has since gone up to 25 chapters I need to complete in order quasi-adequately tell his part of the novel.

My goal has been to average about a chapter a day. Obviously some ideas that were originally crammed into one chapter have been spread out which means I have to draft new material. Also, I have more than one mega chapter which need to be chopped into smaller, more easily to digest chapters.

In addition to forcing me to stick to a schedule, a-chapter-a-day gives me wiggle room since real life happens. For whatever reason, people want me to be around them so this allows me the freedom to spend time with friends and family. Also with it being football season (Go Wolfpack and Niners), my weekends wind up being taken up with chunks of time yelling at the TV.

This approached worked fairly well when I was working with my female lead. My male lead, though, requires a lot more research since he goes around with swords and represents more of the political and historical component of the story. It doesn’t help that research is often conflicting so decisions have to be made for the sake of the story and characters as to what to go with. So aiming for a chapter-a-day pace probably wasn’t realistic and I knew this going into September. It’s why I set the goal for me to be done by November 1st as I want to participate in NaNoWriMo and it took me about four months to do the rough draft.

Yet while I was just wishing for Sucktember to end, when it did, I realized I had made more progress than originally thought. I got 11 chapters done. Better than the 4 in July and there were no excuses for that pathetic output. Had I not done a thumbnail sketch of my male lead’s story, as well as briefly jotting down key things like what kind of weapons and armor he and his brother need, I think I wouldn’t have been able to get even those 11 chapters done.

I say a grateful goodbye to September and am optimistic about October. It’s the home stretch for the novel. Already a tentative structure of how to interweave each character’s chapters to make one complete story is bouncing around in my mind. October is also going to be better because I get to revise the multiple battle scenes I’ve written. I honestly enjoyed writing those scenes the most and can’t wait to improve upon them. Death to September! Long live October!