Tag Archives: NANOWRIMO

How I spent November and what NaNoWriMo means

NaNo-2017-Winner-BadgeYes, you can tell a lot from a picture. This particular one is not worth a mere thousand words, though. It’s worth 50,000. And yes, it means I did indeed “win” National Novel Writing Month.

What does that mean? It means I spent a month learning, again, how to refocus whatever writing talent I actually do possess into a businesslike attitude. I did not allow life to get in the way of my writing for a change. I wrote, consistently, almost every single day of November. (I did skip one day due to being sick.) And almost every one of those days, I wrote more than I actually wanted to.

It means a lot to me this month in particular. I didn’t know if I would make it through this National Novel Writing Month. If I had known at the beginning of the month what would be happening throughout the month, I might not have begun. But I did begin. And in spite of everything, I finished. I won.

But what do you win at the end of NaNoWriMo? Fifty thousand words are not $50,000. Do you at least have a complete novel, ready to send out to publishers? No. I always end up with what I consider to be a sort of fleshed out outline of a novel that is probably lacking between ten and twenty thousand words. The story and plot and characters are there, but some of the connections and scenes are not. Heavy editing and rewriting are required to turn such an outline into an actual book. So what’s the point? Why give up daily workouts, binge-watching Netflix, and going to bed at regular hours?

It’s not just for the accomplishment, though writing 50,000 words is an accomplishment. It’s not to have a completed product at the end of the month. As I’ve said, it’ll be another year or more before this novel is ready for public consumption. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I get to work on editing last year’s NaNo.

To me, what National Novel Writing Month really is is a renewal. It’s a pilgrimage back into the writing world, a sort of training session that will help me stay on track for the next year. Finishing the 50,000 word goal—and recognizing that it is not yet a book—remind me of what I really am. A writer.

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NaNoWriMo wrap up: The big secret.

I’ve spent a day recovering from National Novel Writing Month and I’m happy to report that I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in my third novel of the Synchronicity trilogy and I won. What did I win? Well, this:

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

Which is really just a fancy way of saying I can feel huge accomplishment in the fact that I spent a month writing and not procrastinating. Because, as we all (especially my high school chemistry teacher) know: Procrastination is the thief of time. Especially for writers.

Every time I do this to myself, I think I’ll come out of November knowing what’s so magical about National Novel Writing Month. If you survive it and actually manage to stick with it and hit the goal, you feel like you should know something more than what you did when you started. You should be privy to some spectacular secret that J.K. Rowling and Stephen King knew and chose not to tell you.

Guess what?

There’s no secret. There’s not even any real magic.

The purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to serve as a reminder of what J.K. Rowling and Stephen King actually did tell us. Writing is fricking hard work. And the only way to accomplish anything is to stick the hell with it. Every single day. Pounding the keys and writing and rewriting and beating your head against your desk if that’s what it takes to loosen the words up. Writing sucks. Writing is like flying. Writing is the ultimate in time-sucking, frustrating, awe-inspiring (for you if nobody else), wasteful, necessary vocation in the world.

And there you have it. It’s a vocation. A job. It’s work. And that’s what the secret is. If what you write is worth it to you, you’ve got to write it. Even if nobody else ever reads it and you drive yourself nuts getting it out of your head and onto paper.

Because anything worth having is never, ever easy.

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Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

I’ve been offline for far too long, trying to make my Facebook and a few Twitter posts make up for my lack of blogging. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that I am. I’m actually writing and having a lot of fun with it.

And something else is looming on the horizon.

My current work in progress is lovely. I’m in love with my characters and it’s set in New York, which is a city I love to write about. Not sure I’d want to live there, but I do love writing about it. I get caught up in the storyline, and the twists and turns of it reveal themselves a little more to me each day, so every time I sit at the computer, it’s an adventure.

But every now and then something else lifts its head like Nessie the sea monster and smirks at me with seaweed-stained teeth. Something that will take the joy—at least temporarily—out of my writing.

It’s the first draft of Movie Magic.

I don’t know if you remember Movie Magic. I wrote it way back in November during National Novel Writing Month, which was only the second NaNoWriMo I’ve ever finished. I have no delusions. Movie Magic is bound to be a mess since it actually started out as Pirate Magic and took a turn a third of the way through…and I obeyed the unwritten NaNo rule not to go back and fix what had gone wrong but just to plow through and get it done.

So it needs to be rewritten. Edited. Reworked. Sweated and bled over. I still owe this book a pound of flesh.

I know it’s coming after I finish the first draft of this as-yet-untitled new book. I plan to publish Movie Magic on October 31 (Halloween to the rest of the world, but always Houdini’s birthday to me). So eventually I must face it.

If you’re asking what the big deal is, you’re not a writer. Mark Twain once remarked that the best writers are the best rewriters. Because that’s the true test. Writing a book is one thing. Being able to open it up six months later and face the mess AND fix it…well, that’s a test of courage and willpower and skill.

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National Novel Writing Month Retrospective: A Good Month’s Work

Winner-2014-Web-BannerOn Sunday I achieved my goal. I slayed the NaNoWriMo beast: I wrote 50,000 words of my next Sleight of Hand novel in 30 days.

So what next? I took a day off. I baked a cake. I shopped for towels. I watched three episodes of The Gilmore Girls (my current guilty pleasure). And then I sat down to think about the crazy, hazy (caffeine-fogged) days of November.

I noticed some things about my writing during NaNo that are different from the way I normally write. For instance:

1. Writing was THE most important thing in my life this month (except–in most cases–for my family). Everything else, including daily exercise and even food, was a luxury.

2. With a daily word count in mind, I could make myself sit at the computer until it was done. I let Facebook and Twitter go. I totally neglected this blog. I haven’t done nearly enough to promote my newest book, Island Magic.

3. I only took one day (Thanksgiving) off writing the entire month of November, and even on that day I wrote a couple hundred words.

4. I wrote straight through the storyline. Well, almost. Normally, I am wont to skip around and write whatever scene most appeals to me at the time. This usually results in a lot of discarded writing. For my NaNo this year, I wrote straight through, beginning to end. I skipped a couple of scenes in the middle, but I made a note about what they would be.

5. I didn’t stop, even when I knew I’d screwed something up in the beginning. I didn’t go back and fix it either, which is what I normally would have done. Instead, I went back and made a note about what needed to be done to fix it and kept writing from where I was as if it had been that way all along.

So what’s next NOW? Well, that particular novel is going to sit on the shelf for a while. At least until January. I’ve got a couple of other ideas percolating that I will eventually begin on, though I may take another day or two off. I know there are a LOT of things to fix in my story. I know, for instance, that I accidentally named one of my minor characters after a country music star. Oops. That will have to change. I also know there are scenes to add and references to fix and I think I left at least one blank instead of trying to come up with a place name. It was just easier.

I also know that this book, Movie Magic, will eventually join my Sleight of Hand series. It will be book 4 and it will be done by October 31 of next year. That’s pretty good for one month’s work.

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NaNo Halfway Point: What It Means to Me

twentyfivek_earnedNational Novel Writing Month means different things to different people. Some people start it to prove to themselves that they can write a novel. Others brag a lot about how many words they’ve already written. I think still others (hopefully not many) consider it a farce and might even type “the” 50,000 times just to say they finished NaNoWriMo. There’s nobody to say you can’t do that. If you want to spend several hours typing “the”, the powers of NaNo aren’t going to stop you from wasting your time.

Today marks the halfway point in my own NaNoWriMo Quest, so I figured I’d take a minute to examine what it is to me. After all, I’ve written nine novels and a novella. Writing 50,000 words is no longer the nearly insurmountable objective it once was. Writing 25,000 words in 15 days hasn’t seemed horribly hard, and I’m fairly certain that, even taking into consideration travel time later this month, I should be able to fit the other 25,000 words into my schedule too. So why do NaNo when I can write a book without it?

National Novel Writing Month is a sort of boot camp for me. Over the course of a year or two of writing, it’s easy to get discouraged when the words aren’t rolling off my fingertips. It’s easy to forget the number one requirement to be a writer: YOU. MUST. WRITE. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Without fail. Without pandering to self-doubt. Without wondering where the words will come from. Because if you force yourself to sit at the computer, the words WILL come. They may not always be the right words, but once they’re on the screen, you can move on until the right words do show up.

So what will I end up with at the end of a month? A book? No. A manuscript. I don’t even think it will be a complete manuscript. Fifty thousand words isn’t really long enough. I’ll probably keep writing for another ten or fifteen thousand words before I declare it done. And then will it be a book? No. It’s still just an unedited manuscript and while it will contain a lot of words, I’ll know they’re not all the right ones. But at least they will be written ones.

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NANOWRIMO Day One: The Beginning

As I write this, I have a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is it indigestion? Butterflies? Nerves? Possibly all three. I can hardly believe November 1 is here. Today I launch myself on a quest many novelists before me (and me, several times) have undertaken. A 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I’m ready. I’ve got character sketches, outlines and even a couple of rough scenes. Plus, I’m writing a romance, and I love writing romance, so…yeah. I’m ready.

And so here I go. On to a month of a messy house, writing every second I can and probably not getting enough exercise or sleep. But by the end of the month I’ll have a novel. At least, that’s the plan.

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Sandy prayers and a blog tour update, plus a plug for NANOWRIMO

First off, let me say I’m praying for the people in the Northeast who are going to deal with Sandy’s full wrath in a few hours. I’ve been in a hurricane. I thought Irene was bad. That was the night and day where I could do nothing but pace the floor and listen to trees falling outside my house, praying none hit our roof. North Carolina just got swiped by Sandy this year, for which I’m thankful, but I’m watching and listening to reports of it bearing down on the New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia coasts. I have friends and family in all those states.

But the show—or at least the blog tour—must go on. I’ve got a Q&A up at It’s Raining Books today. Stop by and leave a comment for your chance at the fabulous prizes I’m giving away. And don’t forget to leave me a comment here for a chance to win a print copy of Foreign Affairs. I’ll be giving that away on Wednesday, but you’ve still got time!

Finally, I signed up for NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth) this weekend. I’ve already got a rough outline of my book, have named the main characters and started to work on character outlines. So I’m ready to come out guns blazing on Thursday morning. I have every intention of finishing a novel this month, and I challenge everyone out there to join me. If you’re a writer at all, NANO is a great way to see if you’ve got a novel in you. It teaches you discipline and the joy of writing every single day. And if you don’t find those things by the end of the month (regardless of whether you finish the 50,000 words or not), well, you probably aren’t a novel writer. At any rate, it’s a great way to find out.

I will be blogging this month about my struggles with NANO. I am warning you ahead of time that I may use this blog to complain and vent my frustrations. I will also use it to remind myself to breathe. November is a busy month anyway, but when you’re forcing yourself to crank out nearly 2,000 words a day, it can be downright active! I look forward to finding out what it holds in store for me…

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