Lessons from NaNoWriMo, finding new authors, and a ‘duh’ moment . . .

I haven’t written about it any real depth, but 2014’s NaNoWriMo.org provided me with a very valuable lesson, one that I (think I have) finished processing enough to get  some actual useful knowledge out of. What I have written about, since about week three into November, is that I utterly could not stand the way the pace makes me dread sitting down and writing.

At this point in my writing career I know a decent amount of information about how I am, as a writer. (Rule 1: Know Thyself). I know the types of stories I love to tell. I know what times of the day I write best in. I know that if I’m starting a new series that I need to be alone in the house while I’m starting, and that distraction utterly destroys me, but if the story is well along its way then commotion around me isn’t a big deal, so long as I have music on and ear-buds in. I have a pretty good idea of the length of the story based on how complicated the plot seems, and I know that my ideal length is long short story to novella rather than novel length — and I know that that’s based on industry length, and not so much the new, more relaxed e-book length, in which case some of my material is more novel length than novella length.

I know that, for the last few years that I’ve been paying attention and trying to make the push from amateur writer to professional writer (primarily in attitude and approach, with the goal of my writing becoming my full time job) I’ve carried forward the idea that plotting out the story kills my desire to write it. In a world of pantsers and plotters  I have settled down in the  land between the two, but certainly a bit more toward the pantser side. I rarely ever write down the plans for my stories, but I do have a “steeping” process they all go through, when I work out the bigger details — in my head. Sometimes dialoguing out loud to see how that plays out. (Yes, I essentially talk to myself. In public. “You can’t just expect to throw this at my feet and think everything is going to be just fine. You grew up knowing all about this, but I’ve thought I was human my whole life. In my mind, I still am human — all this greenfolk blood aside. I don’t know how to be what you want me to be!” “I want you to be you, Charlie. Nothing more, nothing less. I won’t pretend that I understand what it is to be human, but I do know that I need you, now. The whole world needs you, now. This cannot wait until you are comfortable with it. We’re dying.”)

I know that I have a ton of stories — many of which are the beginnings of serials — that I want to get going on. I know that more writing time isn’t going to come before I figure out how to push material out, because my aim is that my having material out and available is going to allow me to increase my writing time by allowing me to work full time on the writing. Horse before the cart and all that.  And I know that for the last year I have been lamenting about how I don’t — I can’t — waste the writing time that I do have. I’m not downplaying the process I have made in the last three years. I’ve gone from writing ~20k words in 2011 to writing 80k in 2012, to writing over 100k both in 2013 and 2014. I’ve gotten myself out of my “write for a month solid, take three to six months off to recover” habit. I write when everything is miserable. I’ve learned that writing 4-5k in a weekend is just as good as writing 1k every day, 4-5 days a week, and that sometimes it’s even better when I’m burned out on words from the day job. I’ve learned to relax about the word count while also striving to always up the word count. And, I’ve made writing a part time job that pays one of my bills regularly. This is nothing to sneeze at.

But, NaNo came around, and  I spent October steeping my brain in the book I thought I was going to write . . . . and then on October 30th I realized that no, I’d be working on Poseidon: A Narrative instead. I had a vague, vague concept of what I wanted to do with that book, but that was it, and I went into November scrambling to deal with this surprise.

The first few weeks went well enough, but by the third week in I had reached the end of what I knew was going to happen. While I realize that the point of NaNo is to hit Dec 1st with 50k words worth of material, and a rough draft finished, that’s not good enough for me. I work full time, I have a house full of needy critters, I have two part time jobs going on right now, and I still want to do things like knit and read  — I cannot waste time while writing, which means I have to figure out how to write efficiently.

I came out of NaNo deciding that I wasn’t going to do it again, because the pace is just too much. I also came out deciding I was going to allow myself to have December off – I haven’t had a “vacation” since I started Born of Flame in 2013 — just to read to my heart’s content. (Two weeks in, and I’ve devoured a ton of books, and I’m also chomping at the bit to get back to writing). During this reading spree I discovered Lindsay Buroker’s Rust and Relics series — and, more to the point today, her blog.

Finder her blog allowed to find her post on writing faster, which in turn lead me to Rachel Aaron’s book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Discovering that book lead me to confront what in hindsight should have been a no-brainer.

If I want to write more efficiently, if I want to stop wasting time at the keyboard, I need a better idea of what I’m writing when I fire up OpenOffice. Every time I wind up with a writing day of 1-3k words, when I know I’m going to toss half of them, I am frustrated. I keep chalking it up to being a writer, but I’m not getting any younger, and the stories-to-be-writing pile keeps expanding. I need to get these stories out. I’m not going to miraculously suddenly cease needing to sleep and so far my plea for more hours in the day have yielded no change in our orbit, so something else has to happen.

Knowing what I’m going to write before I sit down — not in any abstract, ephemeral way, but knowing what I’m going to write for that writing session is something that needs to happen. And this concept — to sit down for five minutes or however long it takes, prior to starting that days writing to figure out what I’m going to cover, that is, to micro-plot each day as it comes up — is the concept that feels revolutionary to me. Maybe it shouldn’t, maybe I’m slow on the uptake, but plotting out the story never translated into knowing as I’m sitting down what I’m going to write, in enough detail that I don’t have strain for ‘what scene is this that I’m covering.’

So, today, after our doctor’s appointment, once Beth heads into work, I’m going to sit down and start my outline for the trilogy of which A Marriage of Land and Sea is book 1 for. I’ve been aggressively “steeping” it in my head since I realized I’m going to try this approach (so, for two days, three counting today) and I’ve already sketched out some of the details. Mainly, the connections between by three heroines and also the over-arching plot. I’m going to spend today writing down everything that I know about this story, creating a timeline of events. I’m going to plot the shit of this series, and I’m hoping that this will be the key to getting the material out faster, with fewer wasted word.

I’m not expecting no snags along the way. I’m not expecting perfect writing days. But I want to get rid of the idling time, and I want to cut down on the “wasted words”. I want to increase my efficiency. So, this is the next experiment. Wish me luck, and stay tuned!

Nine By Night — an awesome book bundle you need to have!

ninebynight

So, I had this sitting on my Kindle for ages. Months, even. I purchased it specifically for the Annie Bellet novel, but the problem I have with Kindle books is the lack of a physical TBR pile. I forget about books if I don’t jump on them right away. To celebrate finished (and finished) NaNoWriMo, I decided to reward myself with reading for December (and it says something that I’m two weeks in and plotting out the next series I’m writing, right?). I bought a bunch of books — and I’ll write about them, in the future, because I found some gems I wasn’t expecting. But I also rediscovered this bundle, and I decided to leap in.

Now, I’ll be honest — there are some books that I didn’t care for enough to continue, and that I might go back to. I’m not overly found of New Adult as a category, and I’ll readily admit that disliking that new-fangled genre descriptor is making me reluctant to read much with that label on it. Someday I’ll get tired of this snobbery and force myself to deal with it, but December is/was going to be a no-responsibilities/no-guilt reading spree, so opting to not read books was acceptable.

That said? This bundle — oh this bundle! I’ve already purchased second books in a number of the series that this bundle introduced me to, and reading so many entertaining books with new-to-me voices has rekindled my love for urban fantasy. Many of the books herein are available individually for more than what this bundle costs. Do yourself a favor and buy this.

Any fans of Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, C.E. Murphy or Seannan McGuire will find something to enjoy in this bundle. Seriously. Go. Buy. Do it, thank me later.

A Marriage of Land and Sea

Jolene:

Cheating McCheating Pants! New story coming.

Originally posted on Strip Me Back To The Bone:

We’re coming upon the close of the year, and my mind is turned toward the upcoming projects for 2015. The support my Story Subscription received in six short months has been incredible and, to be honest, a bit unexpected. I knew there were a small number of people I was pretty sure I could count on to be interested in the material I offered. I was expecting the story subscription project to take a bit of the sting off this unexpected dental bill. I wasn’t really expecting for there to be enough interest that my bill would be covered. Instead, I have seen enough interest that my dental bill payments have been covered every month entirely by this project and your generosity has helped ease the sting of Corbie’s medical expenses.

There are no words to express my gratitude. ‘Thank you’ does not seem strong enough, but I’ve got nothing…

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Keeping it Real — Proofreading? Sometimes I suck at it.

Originally posted on Strip Me Back To The Bone:

All in all I think I do pretty well. My proofreading habits are: write the thing. Read the thing. Make changes. Read the thing out loud for story time. Make the changes. Read the thing again. Submit/release/whatnot.

This month’s installment of my Story Subscription made it out of my inbox to yours with way more typos than I’d’ve liked. I’m embarrassed, but mostly, I’m sorry that I inflicted this upon my readers. There was a bunch of things that went wrong as I was getting this ready to go, and I really ought to have stepped back and waited, and sent it out a day late instead of being stubborn about it. Ah, lessons.

Sometimes, my proofreading just isn’t. Thank you to my readers who contacted me about the issues. When Spirit Touched gets released into the wider world, those typos will be fixed, and everyone who received this installment…

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[Marketing Monday — a day late!] Spirit Touched excerpt!

A note: maintaining two separate blogs is becoming too much as more and more of my “free time” is disappearing. I’m trying to remember to get the writing and book and knitting and basically all the non-spiritual posts also posted over here, but apparently I’m not very good at that, so this is a day late, and I’m sorry.

If you’re thinking about signing up for my story subscription for December’s installment, here’s a free sneak peek at what’s in store! (Heck, even if you aren’t, here’s a free sneak peek anyway!)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I crested the hill while the sun was still three finger-lengths above the horizon and stopped cold. Fear curdled in my stomach and burned in my throat. It wasn’t that the forest had grown in the half-season since I’d last passed this way. Forests often behaved in ways one couldn’t anticipate, advancing over this valley, retreating from that mountainside, devouring villages and villagers alike, or ringing the town with living, growing walls to keep the humans safe from the creatures that roamed the night. There was no predicting what the trees might do, not even the Summoners. To try was to tempt madness. The forest was closer to Midpoint Crest, the spot where I stood locked in dread, by roughly a morning’s hike, and the nearest village was three days back the way I’d come. No one had mentioned it in at the inn, and so no one was overly concerned, but then why would they be? This close to our stronghold, the forest was more likely to be friendly than not. This close to our stronghold, the humans were more likely to be friendly than not, come to that. No, the forest itself did not worry me.

Neither did the moon-wisps roosting in the tall grasses along the side of the road. Their ghostly forms looked like heatwaves that sometimes kicked up on the broad roads during the height of summer to the naked eye, but the day around me was chill enough that knowing them for what they were was no trouble. Nor was I was not dependent upon only my eyes to see them. They drowsed in the fading sunlight, their eyes closed, their red-tipped claws curled around their torsos. I counted less than a dozen on either side, eighteen or twenty all told. This was a new tribe, young and small. It could make them dangerous; young tribes were more likely to attack something that they had no hope of taking down, and while twenty had no hopes of causing me mortal harm, even alone as I was, it would take time I didn’t have to subdue them. I’d rather avoid it, if I could, and I had enough sunlight left to put distance between myself and the moon-wisps before they roused to their hunt.

What gave me pause – what rooted my feet to the road, kicked the bottom out of my stomach, and set the acid burning up my throat – was the blood-sickle brambles growing on either side of the road half a league from where I stood. The tell-tale glint of silver as the sunlight hit their leaves chilled my blood. The faint tinking of those leaves as they sought around them for food caused sweat to break out along my skin. For an instant I was fresh on my first solo journey, untried and nervous, with only my shadow, my eaglyn, and my power to protect me. I had years of experience under my feet since my first run in with the blood-sickle. I had confidence and practical knowledge and, more to the point, a larger network of allies at my disposal. I was close enough to safety that help would reach me before they cut my last breath from my body.

But, I had neither my shadow nor my eaglyn to send to fetch the help. There was less than three fingers left of sunlight. My other allies rarely ventured this close to the Summoner stronghold. None of the patrons at the inn mentioned anything about the blood-sickle being this close to a human settlement. Worse than that, I’d been traveling three days on this road without seeing any other travelers. This was the biggest, safest route running from Hell’s Gate to Riverbend Haven. This close to winter heavy traffic would be surprising, but no traffic at all was just as bad. Two days ago I’d sent Mecklin airborne to see if he could catch wind of any news. Yesterday I’d sent my shadow on to see what she could find out. That neither of them spotted the blood-sickle meant it hadn’t been there as recently as yesterday.

Which meant it was swarming.

Which meant there was not even close to enough daylight left for me to reach safety.

I stood atop the hill and gazed down upon my doom. Uphill and upwind from the blood-sickle, I knew that it was already aware of my presence. For all I knew its runners were already burrowing through the earth, racing to reach me, to seize my feet and hold me still until the long shadows of night freed the rest of the plant to come and devour me. It would follow, even if I ran all the way back to Riverbend Haven. It would head there next, if I didn’t destroy it all now – root and runner, seed and leaf, stem, flower, and fruit.

Blood-sickle was tenacious and deadly but, unlike most of the nightmares that ruled the dark, it was simple. It was fast and it devoured everything in its path. It knew no discernment. Flesh and bone and blood was on its menu, as well as wood and sap and flower. It devoured wherever it went, and the land it left behind huge swaths of barren, cursed land. Nothing could grow, and anything dwelling upon the land for long would sicken and die. Even the beasts of darkness. Because of this, blood-sickle was destroyed where it was found, and in this, like in so many other areas, the nightmares ruled. We still didn’t know how they destroyed the blood-sickle so thoroughly. We used sunlight, lent to us by the Five, celestial fire captured and distilled and injected into the very soul of the plant. Most of the time this worked. Most of the time. But it was always costly, and it always left me vulnerable for days, and I’d never, in all the times I’d done this, managed it alone.

Could I destroy it? On my own, with little sunlight left, and tribe of moon-wisps waiting in the wings to take a bite out of me? Could I eradicate the carnivorous plant from the world before it sliced my life away and took my soul into its gut? Or was this going to be the time and place I died? Was this to be the end of Caleyna Summoner? Lost on the ancient road between Hell’s Gate and Riverbend Haven, picked apart by a plant that’s plagued humankind and nightmares alike since the world’s end?

I eyed the angle of the sun, sinking ever closer to the horizon as I stood and debated. There was nothing to be done for it. I was here. I was alone. If I did nothing, I was sure to die. Time was against me.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If you want to know more about what happens to Caleyna, be sure to sign up by Dec. 1st! See my story subscription page for more details!

Sock! [FiberyGoodness Friday!]

Jolene:

Doing this the lazy way.

Originally posted on Strip Me Back To The Bone:

My first sock!

My first sock!

This week, I finished my first ever sock.

Okay, sure, it still needs to be woven in. And yes, I haven’t blocked it yet. (I’m doubtful I’m going to block it, come to that. There’s no open work involved and they’re socks). Never mind that. What’s important is: it’s a SOCK. That I made. From yarn! Which is just glorified thread! Which is just glorified string!

I’ve been knitting on and off since around 2009, but I really started getting into it in 2011. My travel knitting of choice has been washcloths rather than socks, because they are square. And flat. And square. I’ve done scarves and I’ve done mittens and I’ve done fingerless gloves. I’ve started a blanket (that sits, waiting to be finished, because it was for my grandmother, and then she died, and I’m only just now getting to a place where I…

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New story installment going out tomorrow! Just a heads up that this is likely going to be the latest it’s been since the beginning. I try to get them mailed out before I hit the hay on the last day of the month, but my work schedule at my day job is such that I don’t know that that’s going to happen before tomorrow morning, my time, which is late for most of my subscribers! Thanks for your understanding :)