Friday, November 15, 2019

NaNoWriMo Update: THE END

That's an actual screenshot of what I wrote today. No, I didn't finish the 50K word NaNoWriMo goal, but I did finish writing the last scene of the novel I planned out for it. My estimates were right on: I came in just under 30K.

So I just wrote my second novel... but it is shorter than a short story-turned-novella that I wrote a few years ago. Kind of feels anti-climatic, but it is close to the right range for middle grade, and I have a lot to add to it. I tend to write in dialogue and character thoughts, so I need to paint the settings and character descriptions.

I also tend to convey all emotion with the lowering and raising of the eyebrows, or shrugging, or nodding. So as well as going back to weave in the ideas I came up with as I was writing, I need to express the character's emotions more elaborately.

To get the arbitrary number of words that NaNoWriMo has deemed a novel, I am now writing character descriptions and setting descriptions. I've found it useful in the past to do this and then weave them into the actual text. I listed out and have more than ten of each of the two categories, which some simple math shows will result in 20K words.

I also got my first 4K day in a week. That's a relief because I started to feel like it was a fluke that I did it the first week.  Nice to go into the busy weekend on a positive note.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

NaNoWriMo Update: Week 1

It's my first year attempting National Novel Writing Month, which is defined as writing 50K words in a month. Going into it last week, I was completely uncertain if I'd be able to pull it off. And I'm still far from certain, but after 9 days I have 21,780 words in my document. That's ahead of the scheduled 1,667 per day, but I'm trying to finish before Nov 25 (I'm guessing that whoever scheduled this thing in November wasn't responsible for school-aged children who have the full week off nor was planning to host a Thanksgiving dinner!)

It has been a new experience for me to sit down by 10am and tap out 4K words before school pickup. I've had a few days where I didn't get focused enough and so had to carry on in the evenings, but overall I've been shocked by how fast I can write when I'm trying: I can generate 500 words in 20 minute sprints,  although the pace decreases to about 1K/hour overall, given breaks and such.

My biggest problem is looking to be that the novel is coming in close to my estimate of 30K words, which is acceptable for middle grade, especially considering I'll need to weave in setting descriptions and emotional explanations, but that will be much slower. So my current plan is to try to generate the balance to "win" NaNoWriMo by writing pure setting, character description and backstory. It could be a waste of time in order to reach the rather arbitrary goal, but I have found it useful in the past to write these pure descriptions and then pick the best sentences to weave in.

So, so far so good. Apparently, I can do it for nine days anyway, at least if I have a novel planned out.  Happy writing, everyone!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Inkberry, Crime Fiction, Indie Publishing

On Sat Nov 16, my day-job colleague and undercover-writer B.J. Smith will be at the lovely Inkberry Books in Niwot, CO for a talk, reading and book signing. I've found his books to be very well written and clever reads.  Check it out!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sharing my NaNoWriMo planning and tracking spreadsheet

I'm so excited about NaNoWriMo that I wrote a planning/tracking spreadsheet . Feel free to copy if you want to give it a go. Support possible but not guaranteed (after all, I'll be writing!)

New Territory

It's Halloween, but my excitement comes from the unknown territory I'm heading into on a few different dimensions.

I sent out my first two query letters for Winter Yield and soon will contact eight more agents who've expressed interest at conferences over the years.  I'm ready for my first rejections.

Tomorrow is the first day of my first NaNoWriMo, in which I will see if I can write 50,000 words in a month. I have a contemporary, middle grade (new genre!) novel plotted out. Last time I just pantsed the first draft, then spent five years reverse-engineering it into a story that other people believed and found interesting enough to read. I don't know for sure if it will kill the writing magic, but this is my experiment to see if I can forward-engineer the process (and subsequently have something done much quicker).

It's all exhilaration and the luxury of dreaming, right now. I'll try to check in frequently!

Stepping Into the Wilderness

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


I just addressed the last twenty-two comments in my manuscript, and edited the "But" beginning out of 124 sentences. I will read it out loud to myself and send it to two friends for a final proofreader. Then I'm ready to query.

I'm appreciating the hopefullness of this point in the writing process. The manuscript is as good as I know how to make it. I have my agent list and query letters ready. There is so much potential.  I can spend hours daydreaming about getting requests for more pages, requests for the full manuscript, phone calls offering representation based on the first ten pages.

You can guess where is this going, right? I know those are pipe dreams. The average number of queries for traditionally published books is something like seventy-five, and those were apparently good enough to find not only agents but publishers.  This elation will almost certainly be tempered by rejections over the year that I've given myself to find an agent. After that, I have a few alternatives in mind.

Meanwhile, I'm going to appreciate the glow that comes with a manuscript that I can finally call finished, even if it took over six years to get here. I'm also going to enjoy planning my next novel and getting to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Volunteering Pays Off: Lesson #1 from the 2019 RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

View from my hotel room at Colorado Gold

My first Colorado Gold conference, in 2014, was powerful. Although I’ve attended every year since then, subsequent conferences have been less impactful as I struggled to connect with the writers who had made such great impressions on me.

This year was my sixth conference, and since I don’t feel the need to absorb every morsel of content anymore, I volunteered to sit behind the registration desk. I was hoping to meet attendees and get to know the dedicated folks who run the conference. I purposely signed up to share the shift with Nathan Lowell, a successful author who I had heard interviewed years ago on an RMFW podcast. His independently-published series of space opera and fantasy are so successful that traditional publishers can’t tempt him to sell through them.  I didn’t have high expectations for our meeting but it turned out he was friendly and brimming with advice (in a good way). He offered that I could reach out to him in the future, but I figured he probably wouldn’t remember me. 

Then, at the Saturday banquet, when I was feeling deflated about reaching but not placing in the contest finals for the second year in a row, Nathan sought me out to tell me he had judged my contest entry two years in a row. He liked my story and thought it had improved a lot. We ended up chatting extensively about our projects, processes, and experiences. I felt honored to be granted so much of his time and enriched by all that he could share. Days later, I’m still glowing* with the validation that comes from a successful author liking my work and with the potential offered by an influential mentor in the business.  

I’m not sure if any conference will ever beat that first experience of finding my tribe but this year came close.

*Note for writers: This emotion manifests physically as warmth spreading through the crooks of my elbows and knees, and it literally makes me smile to myself a full week later.