I love November!

IMG_3815 I love November. The weather finally settles into what passes for Fall in Texas. Sometime in the first week, all the leaves will change color. The next day, or so it seems, they’ll all drop. Unless you live in my neighborhood which is full of live oak trees. Our leaves drop in the spring, which is as annoying and weird as it sounds.

Walking into Kroger yesterday, my husband was shocked to see Christmas items for sale. No surprise here. Holiday season truly starts with Halloween, but November 1 is the day it goes into overdrive. Poor Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is marginalized to a few end caps with brown and orange leaf-shaped plates and bags of Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix and cans of pumpkin.

If you’re a writer, November might mean NaNoWriMo. For those reading who aren’t writers, NaNo is a month-long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel. For the curious, that averages out to 1,300 words a day during one of the busiest months of the year. STILLWATER, my novel which being published next Fall, started eight years as a NaNo project. Two things remain from that first attempt: the main character, Ellie, and the town, Stillwater. Strange to think of how it evolved from an attempt to write a modern-day version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion to a murder mystery.

November 1 is also the date the sequel to STILLWATER starts on. If you follow me on Twitter, you;ll know this sequel, working title THE FISHER KING, has been killing me. Everyone said the second book is harder and boy were they right. Though true to form, I’ve made the process more difficult than it need be. But, my writing style seems to be writing a book and a half worth of prose before finding the real story. Such is life. I’ll have to evolve into an efficient writer if I want to achieve my writing goals.

IMG_3810It’s fitting that I’m working on a novel set during the exact dates I’m living (though STILLWATER & THE FISHER KING are set in 2012). I can walk outside and observe the how the shadows fall on the ground, the crispness in the air, the spikes of temperature that catch us Texans off-guard. My mind turns to Thanksgiving dinner plans, Christmas shopping. Which of my characters would be thinking of these things, as well? Those are the things you forget about when writing in July a book set in November. The little things give novels a richness and lived in feel that readers love, without realizing they love it. The five senses, a sense of time, a sense of place, characters we can recognize and relate to–though not always approve of–are what make novels linger with a reader.

For me, the second draft is a focus on the little things. Enriching the novel with the senses while also cleaning up the mystery and sprinkling clues in I forgot on the first time. Getting rid of lazy, passive first draft words, tightening and sharpening the prose and expanding narrative. This is when the story takes shape. This is when the doubts which have plagued me throughout writing the first draft–I’m terrible! I’ll never be able to finish a MS again. Why did I ever think I could do this? I suck.–recede and I finally start to believe again.

And, about damn time.

On Writing – National Novel Writing Month

Image from mysynonym.com

Ah, November. So much happens in November. The leaves finally turn and drop in Texas. My birthday. Thanksgiving. Fall sweeps. And, most importantly, National Novel Writing Month.

From the Website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2011, we had 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

I didn’t officially participated in NaNoWriMo last year because I was working on my historical fiction novel. (One rule of NaNo is you must start the novel from scratch.) This year I am working on the mystery I wrote during NaNo a couple of years ago.  Maybe one day I will be at a point where I can take part again, but not this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t use the idea of NaNo’s daily word counts with my current project. In fact, setting a word count goal this month will help me meet my goal of finishing the first draft of this novel by the end of this year. Maybe, I will finish the first draft this month and can use December to work on the second draft. I would like to start the sequel to my historical fiction novel in January.

To reach 50,000 words by November 30 a participant needs to write 1,666 words per day. Since, I already have 44,000 words I do not need to write 50,000 words. I want to keep this novel at 75,000 which means my daily writing goal for November is 1,000 words per day, or four pages. It is amazing how much more doable 1000 words sounds than 1,666.

Wish me luck!

NaNoWriMo – Inspiration Needed

@deannaraybourn Dreamed I heard cathedral bells; they woke me and I had both the beginning and end of my book sitting in my head, perfectly formed.

I hate you.

Image from mysynonym.com

Of course, I jest. I don’t hate you at all. I’m thrilled for you. What a great feeling that is to have a scene come into your mind fully formed. Despite my recent struggles, that very thing has happened to me. In fact, yesterday the epilogue for the book I’m currently writing popped into my head. It wasn’t fully formed, granted, but the idea, characters and setting are there. It perfectly sets up a sequel using clues I have planted in the first couple of chapters I have written. However, logic dictates that I finish what I’m working on right now before thinking of what comes next. That’s the quickest way to sidetrack myself. I’ve been there, too.

Today’s writing challenge is getting my protagonist out of Austin and on her way to Colorado. She will make many detours before she reaches her destination, if she reaches it at all. *insert evil laughter here* We’ve been stuck in Austin for a couple of days now. I suspect I’m making this much more difficult than I need to.

Last night, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. When my husband asked me what was wrong I replied I was thinking. A big part of writing is staring into space and thinking. The most important part, though, is getting out of your own way and just writing. That’s my goal for the day. Get out of the way and write.

NaNoWriMo – It’s called a challenge for a reason.

Since Big Decision Thursday, progress has been slow. Let’s be honest, progress has been darn near non-existent. It isn’t because of my normal demotivator – depression at the gargantuan mountain I have to climb – or even because I’m writing in a new perspective. My lack of forward progress can be attributed to three things: television reviews, life and research.

I couldn’t not write about Revenge and The Mentalist. Their two excellent episodes deserved a review. Life, well, the challenges of writing 1,666 words a day amid all of my daily responsibilities isn’t going to change. (I’m sitting at a baseball game right now, posting on my iPhone. Forgive any mistakes.) Life is less an excuse than a reason.

The biggest time suck from the last two days has been research. Writing historical fiction I am compelled to be as historically accurate as possible. That requires frequent detours from writing to Google or my Time-Life Old West books. This research will benefit my novel, but seeing my word count move so little makes me anxious but not discouraged.

NaNoWriMo – One step forward, two steps back

Image from mysynonym.com

For almost four years, I have been meeting my cousin, Mark Hoover, every Tuesday and Thursday to write. We write most days, sometimes stopping down to lament about kids, life, politics, etc., but the majority of the time we focus on writing and supporting each other in our ongoing endeavor to make $**t up. I suspect that he helps me more than I help him, but he is nice enough to tell me that my advice to him is valuable. His advice to me, and his unwavering belief in my abilities even when I believe I can barely string a group of coherent words together, are what has kept me writing for so long with so little success.

Today, we met for the first time since I started NaNo. A question I had for him about my lead character’s name (which is changing early in the novel because she is on the run! Oh, the drama!) turned into a great discussion about what I should do, how I should handle it. The result? I’m almost convinced to scrap everything I worked on yesterday (1500 words!) and change the perspective from third person to first person. His arguments for me doing it are solid and, when I look at it from a what’s best for the story/character I know that first person is the way to go. But, it will require completely reworking what I’ve written so far. (For the record, I’m not officially competing in NaNo because one requirement of the challenge is that it be an original novel. Completing an unfinished work doesn’t count and that is what I was doing.)  That would be scrapping or reworking 36,000 words worth of prose. That is difficult for me to do for obvious reasons.

Now, for the not so obvious reasons: I’m notorious for going into something like this, editing, reworking, etc, getting discouraged and quitting. Frankly, I don’t want to fail like that again. Maybe this time will be the time that I get over that particular writing hurdle.  Maybe writing in first person is my natural voice, what I should have been doing from the beginning and the words will flow so easily that I will finish the entire novel before Christmas, send it to publishers in January and get it accepted in February. Ooooorrrrrrr, maybe I’ll do what I always do and work really hard for a while, then my interest peters out as it gets more difficult or I get closer to success. I really am my own worst enemy. Are there such things as a writer’s psychologist? Cuz I think I need one. Maybe that’s what Mark is.

During our discussion, Mark said that I have to constantly put obstacles in my heroine’s way. One step forward and two back. Thinking on some of my favorite books, that is exactly what happens: Elizabeth Bennet, Margaret Hale, Harry Potter, Maisie Dobbs, Percy Jackson, Victor Frankenstein, Jane Eyre. What keeps me reading is wondering how they will react to adversity. Going through trials and tribulations with them makes the ending, whether it be happy or tragic, satisfying. I hope that my journey writing this novel, the inevitable one step forward two back in my writing process, will make my denouement satisfying as well.

I’m rooting for a happy ending.

NaNoWriMo – “I’m writing here!”

nano tip 3

Image by nuanc via Flickr

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you aren’t familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is a 30 day challenge for would be novelists (read, me) to write a 50,000 word novel. Using my trusty iPhone calculator, that is 1,600 words a day. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried to write 1,600 words in a day but it ain’t easy. For instance, to this point in this post, I have written seventy words. I have 1,530 to go to meet my goal today.

But, my goal isn’t to write on my blog every day, but to work on a long gestating novel of mine. Of course, all of my novels are long gestating. None of them have seen the light of day in a complete form and there is a real possibility they never will. I’m great with the ideas, iffy on the execution and downright abhorrent at editing. That isn’t what you would call a good recipe for success, especially when I’ve set a goal to be a published author by the time I’m 45. Considering there’s a roughly 2 year lead time from acceptance to book in hand, I’ve got a year to get this done. I need to get cracking. Shit or get off the pot. Fish or cut bait. You can’t win if you don’t send it in. Etc, etc, etc.

All this means my posting here in the month of November will be erratic. My BSG reviews will continue, as will my reviews for Revenge and The Mentalist. Other reviews will depend on my time and quality of what I watch and/or read. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come over her and share the ups and downs of churning out 1,600 words of prose per day.  There’s also a real possibility I will come over here as a way to procrastinate what I need to be doing, which is exactly what I’m doing now. Better go.

Final word count for this post: 319