It.Is.Finished!

Yes, this.

Yes, this.

I’ve finally completed NaNoWriMo! For the first time in many failed attempts (some NaNo rebel style, some textbook), I completed 50k words, writing each day, on the same story. Mallory and Jake managed to take me on a great ride, one that I’m still taking. But I wanted to take a moment and breathe through this accomplishment, this milestone.

I never thought I could get 50K words on the page in 26 days, and it’s been surreal for me. There were a lot of things that contributed to my success, most of which I’ve mentioned here already, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.

1. I outlined. This is not only my first year outlining for NaNoWriMo, but my first real attempt at outlining ever. I’m addicted to get the premise and major plot points on paper now. It guides the writing and keeps me focused so that every morning, I have some inkling of what needs to happen in a scene today.

2. I had a reader. My reader/accountability buddy kept me on track in a big way. Knowing that I had to turn over those pages kept me writing, and trying to write well. I felt so accomplished when she laughed at the right lines and threatened to murder me if I didn’t hurry up and write the next scene when I left her hanging on the cliff. I could actually gauge if my hooks worked with a reader, which helped me decide how to proceed.

3. I followed a routine. I got up each morning and put my butt in my writing area (there isn’t actually a chair down here). It didn’t matter what time I went to sleep, how unsure I was of where I was going next–I sat my butt down and wrote. Sometimes, after I got the rusty water words down and ideas were flowing better, I backspaced over the drivel and saved my reader from having to slog through it. I didn’t let a crap storm of awfulness stop me from continuing, but having that reader made sure I got rid of the really crappy stuff.

4. I allowed myself to edit. I’m not the type of writer who can write all the way through without looking back, put the manuscript away, then gasp in horror at what I’ve written a few weeks later. I read my output each day just like my reader. If it’s just a matter of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, I fix them immediately. If a key transition is missing, I will either add it or note it for my revisions, depending on the size of it. I took advantage of Saturdays when I had more time to go back and add things in. I did what I knew I needed to do, just enough to keep the inner editor off my back. There are still too many weak verbs and tense things to fix, but making the surface changes helped me not to get bogged down in deep editing. My only rule? Don’t take away from the word count if possible.

5. I chose to write a story that I loved. I loved the idea for Delivering Justice from the moment I began working it over in my head. I loved the characters and the setup. I was excited at the opportunity to write something that was funny and suspenseful and a little cheesy. I wanted to write about cars exploding and criminals and undercover agents. I was looking forward to the challenge of remembering who was injured where. I was also open to the surprises–Luka and his showdown with Jake on the train to Orlando instead of tracking them down in Florida being my favorite–and throwing in more suspense of more kissing when I got stuck (which ALWAYS worked in this story–when in doubt, kiss it out…or blow it up 😀 ).

Bonus: I had fun. I’m usually so concerned about getting a draft right that I never get it finished. My characters are always so serious and brooding, so insecure and a hot mess train wreck. But Mallory and Jake, and their friends, aren’t. Mallory is a little neurotic and afflicted with verbal diarrhea, but she’s also an established businesswoman who will do anything to protect those she loves (including crawling into an air duct with nine millimeter handgun!), and Jake, while serious and by the book, is a former fat kid with a sweet tooth whose loyalty is unshakeable. I let the characters who wanted to be funny be funny. If a character had a thought totally incongruous to what was happening around them, I let them have it. If one went off having epiphanies about their relationship too soon, I kept it (I can move it later). If Mallory and Jake wanted to play kissy face with a hit man on their trail…you get the idea.

I started out the month with the notion that I wanted to laugh and gasp and nearly cry when I read this story, even if it was so awful it never saw the light of day again, and I ended up with a story I think is really special.

The next time I write, I’ll post an excerpt for you guys to read!

XOXO,

Erica

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#NaNoWriMo, Outlines, & How I Learned to Stop Fighting Plotting

We are almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, and I am more than halfway through to the 50k word count goal. It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can make! This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo, and the first time I’ve had 30k words done on a fiction project (I have just over 40k in the books on my Marriage Kit book). I  couldn’t be more excited with all of the progress that I’ve made on this story, and I feel that it’s a really strong one. I wanted to share some of what I’m finding so different about writing this time around, and why I feel this story may be “the One”–my first submitted full length romance!

First of all, I started thinking about NaNoWriMo early this year. I wrote down the incident that spawned the idea for the story on October 18th. From October 18th until October 31st, I teased the idea, creating a basic plot outline for the first time ever. I started with the main characters names, occupations, how they met, what changes, the external problems, the internal problems, and what changes again. I then moved into the climax and the happily ever after. I made a separate list based on this loose plotting that included all of the things that had to happen to keep the plot moving in the right direction, which has allowed for me to keep an element of surprise in the writing that keeps me returning to the page. I even checked the plot over for possible plot holes and had a list of explanations that dug me out of them. I made a list of who didn’t know what and when/if they would figure it out. I developed all of the supporting characters and tossed around a few first line ideas. Most importantly, I read several articles on where to start the story, how to set the scene, what Harlequin is and is not looking for, and advice from editors. I printed off a copy of the guidelines for the line I’m targeting, and read interviews with the editors of that line to get a better feel of what works with the line. In other words, I did my research.

Another thing that’s different about this year is that I have a reader. A coworker read my So You Think You Can Write entry and really enjoyed it. We got busted for talking too much just before the first, so instead of telling her about what I was working on, I decided to drop off what I had written to her on the first to see what she thought. She is a Norah Roberts superfan, so I knew she loved the genre and would be a good first reader, but more than that, dropping off the pages each day means I have to write the words and meet my word count each day. It’s the best accountability that I could have, and seeing her face light up each day I drop off the next batch of befuddling first draft pages makes me feel like a real writer with a devoted following.

I have never been able to quiet my inner editor, so I developed a compromise for NaNoWriMo that’s been working really well for me: I can fix typos, exchange words, and add words for clarity, but I can’t take words out until after NaNoWriMo is over. I look over a printed copy of what I’ve written each day  and correct anything that needs correcting. I fix any errors in my NaNo document before continuing on the next day. This way, my inner editor is satisfied I’ll have a clean copy when I’m done without me having to compromise the word count.

Another thing that has really helped me is getting up each morning at 5 am to write. I come to the same place to write as well. This consistency has helped me to keep the words flowing. I love the progress that I’ve made on this project, and I’m hopeful it will be my first completed not quite first draft of a fiction project.

So, about the story. It’s a romantic suspense story about what happens when an interior designer (Mallory Taylor) is given the wrong delivery by the hot delivery driver for Vito’s Ristorante (Jake Ballenger). Instead of getting her usual order of baked ziti with a side of meatballs, she’s delivered something a lot less edible and a whole lot more alarming. Jake had just made his last delivery on his last day at Vito’s, but he’s willing to return to the gorgeous interior designer’s office to get one last look at her curves before moving on. Instead of an eyeful, he ends up with a bullet in his shoulder. The two manage to escape with their lives, and set out to figure out what they’ve become caught up in. But when the bullets stop flying, will the love that’s developing between them be left standing?

I love Jake and Mallory. Mallory has no brain mouth filter, and Jake’s tough exterior hides a warm guy who’d lay down his life for the woman he loved. I have managed to incorporate both Mallory and Jake’s POVs into the story, as well as populating the with fun supporting characters and a few plot twists to keep things interesting. I’m hoping that I’ll be read to sub this story, tentatively titled Delivering Justice, by the beginning of next year, if not before. I will take a break from it for at least a week in December to plot the next couple of ideas I have for possible sequels. In other words, I’m really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share a snippet with you guys…

Tomorrow. 😀

XOXO

Erica

A Time for Honesty

I’m not going to “win” Camp NaNoWriMo. I am not all broken up about it, either. The point, for me, was to jump start my writing again, to commit to spending more time writing each day. It was more an exercise of butt-in-chair than actually going for the word counts. I also wanted to commit to a first draft, of spending more time writing than I did dismantling what I’d written before. I wanted to develop a routine that allowed me to reread and alter for consistency, but still keep moving the WIP forward, not getting bogged down in trying to produce a perfect draft instead of a first draft.

I have been finding the act of a NaNoWriMo style of writing to be a bit too restrictive for me. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to give in to the impulses that arise whenever I’ve taken up the challenge. I keep wanting to switch my focus to other stories. I have these elaborate ideas for them, but I try to force myself to only work on the current project (although I do write the concept or a line or two down so I can come back to it). All of my word count must go to this project. The more I try to do that, the less healthy I think that is for me. My creative process isn’t exactly linear, and trying to write a story in a linear fashion hasn’t worked for me since my days of writing FO (another problem I have with my approach to NaNoWriMo months).

Here’s what I know to be true about myself as a writer: sometimes I have to follow the red herrings and see where they’re going, if only to know if the red herring is taking me off course with this story, but leading me to another; working on other projects can clear my head enough that a solution to a blockage with another story can get through; I’m always going to be a quality over quantity writer; it’s no use trying not to self-edit along the way, if for nothing else but consistency’s sake; my goals work better for me when they are less about word count or time spent writing, and more about committing to writing a certain scene or introducing certain characters, and; it’s OK that the way I work may not jibe with what the writing advice people say in some ways, as long as I am writing things of which I can be proud.

For the next six days, I will continue to concentrate on the Camp NaNoWriMo WIP. I will work to get all of the written material typed up and validated, as well as work on progressing to a certain point in the work before the end of camp. I will also begin prepping my next project for the official NaNoWriMo in November. I think that if nothing else, NaNoWriMo is a good way for me to start thinking intensively about projects and to have an official start day and begin setting time aside to at least get as much of the concept on paper as I already have in my head. The next NaNoWriMo project will be the one of the other choices from my Need Help in a Hurry post. Between August and November, aside from prepping for November, I’m going to be focused on whatever project is calling to me. I’ll write on it every day until I’ve gotten as much as possible worked out  and can’t get any more words to come out, then switch to the next project that gets hot. I would love to say that I’m going to see one project to a completed first draft before moving on, but that may or may not happen.

Also, I want to get Candy Apples published…and soon. If any other short stories get finished, I’ll work on getting them published as well. I think it’s time to move forward with my writing career in a way that will eventually allow me to write fulltime. I think that once I can fully focus on my writing, my output will be a lot higher (yet still of a great quality) and I will be that much closer to my dream of publishing domination. I can’t wait to be able to share these characters and stories that I love with readers the world over and have them love and care about them as well. That’s really where my motivation lies.

I just wanted to be honest about all of that. This is who I am as a writer and what I want to accomplish the next few months. What are you guys working on? What do you plan to accomplish the rest of this year? What type of writer are you? I can’t wait to hear your responses! 🙂

Needing Help in a Hurry

Tomorrow is the official start to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve already been on to the website, filled out my author information. I’ve got my pens and paper ready, and I’m ready to resuscitate a very rusty writing practice. The thing is, I got to that pesky novel information page and realized I still don’t know what I’m writing about.

Since the spirit of NaNoWriMo is to start and finish a novel in the allotted month, I have to start from scratch writing wise. Thanks to my trip home, there are quite a few pieces that I have that I can start over with and make a pretty great story from. There are a couple of choices for this, as I outlined in The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit.

Here are my choices. Let me know what you think I should work on. Keep in mind, now, that since I’d have to start over, some of the ones I wanted to work on, I can’t (A Blues for Zora, the one on Openfiction.com, Class Reunion, the Southern Gothic Novel)

  1. The story I told you about in Three Sides to Every Story. It’s about a woman who has recently lost a parent. In her grief, she becomes a mean, bitter recluse. She meets and befriends a man who is her polar opposite–daring, extroverted, friendly. This is the story of their friendship. At this point, it’s not a love story, but who knows?
  2. The story with the “It’s Really Not What it Looks Like” twist. Amanda is sick and needs a home health aid. Her brother catches the home health aid in a situation that looks really bad and forms a bad opinion about her, despite his obvious attraction to her. Can she prove her innocence and keep her job? It’s very harlequinesque, as you can see.
  3. That murder story I was telling you about. Maria Gonzales is a mystery writer suffering from severe writer’s block under deadline. She just can’t seem to get a good grip on this female familicidal killer. Luckily, her boyfriend Tony works at a maximum security women’s prison that houses a notorious female convicted of familicide. Maria overcomes her writer’s block and pens a bestseller. Everything is going well…until the murderess escapes.
  4.  Something absolutely new that I’ve been playing around with. I’m not sharing it yet. That is all. Well not really. I’ll just say it’s more literary than the others.

Cast your votes now. I’ll let you know what I decided to go with tomorrow!

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

A Ford Escort automobile that has been involve...

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I wonder if failing is like lying. Can you fail by omission? Does it matter if you’re closer to success than failure? What constitutes failure? Is it up for debate?

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday. All of us participants are now wearily coming out of the basement to access the damage this tornado has wrought in our lives. Perhaps yours didn’t end up too bad; you got a good first draft of a novel and kept your sanity. If you made it to 50,000 words, according to NaNoWriMo, you succeeded. I know a few of you who discovered your novels weren’t done at 50,000 words, so maybe you view it a little differently.

I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I wasn’t even close. So, in that sense, I failed. I knew, in the back of my mind, that with all of the things I had pressed into last month that I would fail. So the goal for me was to learn and let the experience teach me about myself as a writer.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s no such thing as a “dead story” when the idea and characters work. I thought because I hadn’t been able to write on a story in a while, or hit a wall that it meant the story wouldn’t work or I wasn’t a good enough writer to write the story. But using an old idea and characters for NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes I just need to let a story simmer until the ideas are fully cooked.
  • There’s no such thing as a “writing mood.” I don’t have to be in the mood to write. I don’t need a writing desk and the perfect lighting. I can write anywhere at any time. Even when I feel like I have nothing to say, if I sit down and read where I left off, I can usually fall write back into the story. I have no excuse not to write now.
  • I can’t let my deadlines choke me. I’d always heard that if you aren’t published by the time you’re 25, you haven’t got it. I don’t know why I believed that. So many people in literary history have proven that wrong. But, I was so obsessed with getting published this year, while I’m still 25, that I was choking my creativity. I didn’t want to write down anything I couldn’t publish immediately. NaNoWriMo forced me to write everything. Even if I wasn’t sure or didn’t think it worked. Even though I didn’t make the deadline, I am OK with that. I wrote some great things; I wrote some silly things. I didn’t let the deadline bother me. I can still finish my NaNoWriMo story. I will still finish it. In my own time.

How was your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Were you successful? What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What will you do with your novel now?

Planning Ahead vs. Letting It Flow: NaNoWriMo Edition

Pisces

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Just like the Pisces symbol I was born under (if astrology means anything to you; it doesn’t to me), I’m in two minds when it comes to life: usually, I like to plan ahead for things and know what to expect (what I call my Against the Current Fish–ACF), but at other times I like to go with the flow (my Downstream Fish (DSF), alternately known as OK Player (OKP) when I’ve lost the will to care :D). Most of the time, the areas of my life are clearly ruled by one or the other facet of my complex personality:

Work: ACF     Bill Paying: OKP (bad, I know)     What I wear to work: DSF

Chores: ACF    Cooking: DSF

But there are some areas in life where the fish  battle for supremacy:

romantic relationship            packing

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of my writing, particularly my NaNoWriMo novel.

I planned very little in advance with this novel. Even though I lifted the idea from a little piece I wrote my senior year of high school for a writing workshop class. I planned out what the catalyst would be, the major dramatic question (MDQ), when it would all come to a head and who the major players were. I decided on a time line and how to split up the story: the call that is the catalyst for recent events, for example, occurs one year before everything comes to a head, but there are some important things that happened nine and ten years before the crisis point as well. I thought that I could plan out when to introduce characters before I wrote each day. Other than that, I would let the writing flow.

This seems to have been a bad idea. It works some days, but other days, I am almost in tears for lack of inspiration. I curse myself that I didn’t plan ahead better. My characters surprise me (the best friend being pregnant was not what I originally had in mind), real people creep in (my boyfriend as my MC’s boyfriend), and many of the things I planned go to crap (or are DOA).

But then, when everything clicks, it really clicks. Like my description of where she meets Nathan for their blind date, or how well the prologue came out. I had a one line description of one of my MC’s aunt’s that captured her character so perfectly, I could not write another word about her personality and you’d get it.

I worry that planning ahead too much can kill the anticipation I feel sitting down to write. It’s like a soap opera or Dexter: what’s going to happen when I sit down today? Is my MC going to go from frying pan to fire? Is she going to have a spot of good luck? What craziness will her pregnant best friend pull? Will the men inadvertently ruin everything?

So what I need to figure out is how to strike a balance between letting the work flow and planning ahead enough so that I at least have SOMEWHERE to begin each day.

How do you write? Are you someone who plans ahead, lets it flow, or both? How do you balance it out and keep writing?

Note: Balance is one of my favorite words these days.

NaNoWriMo

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

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I’ve been (in)actively participating in NaNoWriMo this year. This is my first time participating, and the circumstances aren’t ideal. I am moving at the end of the month and have no internet access at home at the moment, so I can’t keep my word count up to date. I’m packing and cleaning a lot of the time. I write at work during lunch and have to type up all the things I write whenever I get access to a computer.

Writing 50,000 words by hand, then typing them out while preparing to move to another city would be hard enough to do if I wasn’t a chronic perfectionist. I keep taking out words that aren’t necessary or cross out phrases to say things more succintly. I can’t make myself skip around in the story when I get stuck in a scene. I have to write in a linear fashion most of the time. I can’t get through a first draft without proofreading. It’s a sickness.

The good thing about this whole process is that it’s gotten me back into the habit of writing daily. I may not meet the word count each day, may fail at the 50,000 word count goal, but I’m writing daily, writing a story that I care about and that’s a lot of fun.

This is my first attempt at chick lit, and I am enjoying it. I don’t have many of the clichés and the story is quite complex. I’m happy with the level of writing I’m doing (even though it is a first draft and I’m rushing, I have some really good things written already). I love turning to the spot where I left off, and falling back down that hole in the page, revisiting these characters.

I saved a story from the DOA pile to try for this NaNoWriMo thing. I started over from scratch with just four characters and a sticky situation, and it’s been evolving ever since. I hope to share more details with you as this journey unfolds.

Other NaNoWriMo participants, what are you learning about yourself as a writer this go around? Would also love some encouragement!

Your Introductory Course to Me

Misery (novel)

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“Hello there,” you say, staring at the back of my head, angling your neck to try and get a better view of my face. I see you clearly reflected in the window in front of me. “I thought that was you!”

You appear delighted to see me, but I have no idea why. I’ve been dodging you for days, turning into alleys and crossing the street without thought to danger or destination whenever I saw your beige trenchcoat and stylized bedhead hair.

I’ve been waiting for you to catch me, turn your head faster than I can duck out of sight and raise a casual hand of greeting. I thought you had once, but you were signally a taxi. It made my heart race to almost be caught, just as it’s beating now…

I turn and extend a hand, one corner of my mouth upturned, the other a straight slash…

***

All of the above is fiction. I don’t make a habit of dodging people, but I am not a fan of introducing myself either. I usually don’t spend much time doing so (as my other blogs will attest). I usually just jump right in with wherever I am and catch you up as we go along. So, without further ado my life right now:

  • I am participating in NaNoWriMo; in other words, I am a nutcase. I still don’t know why I signed up for it. This is my first time attempting it, and I am well below the total I’m supposed to have at this point. More on this later.
  • Oh, and my NaNoWriMo novel is my first attempt at Chick Lit. Oh, boy, will you hear more on that later.
  • I am reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s a well written book. I found it a little slow at first, but I’m beginning to see her genius. I usually read on my lunch break from work (I work for a company and do stuff–I’m sorry; that was deliberately vague). So far, on said lunch break, I’ve read Stephen King‘s Misery, Carrie, & It, along with a litany of Harlequin romance novels; I am now attempting to be more literary.
  • I’m moving in two weeks time, which only adds to the fun of working, reading, and writing–with packing!
  •  I think this is one of the coolest blog names ever!
  • There are a million and one things to do to this blog–I hope you stay around long enough to see me at my best
  • Yes, I realize I spelled “copyright” wrong; that was intentional.
  • This blog, at the moment, will be about me as a writer, reader, and literary thinker. However, due to chronic random-itis, I may digress into random observations that have nothing to do with any of the aforementioned things.
  •  Does anyone else feel like Paul Sheldon in Misery sometimes?–Not that some crazed fan is breaking your legs and holding you hostage, but that writing, while slow at first, sort of becomes a rabbit hole for you, to get away from all the pressure and stress of the everyday? I also feel like writing is something I can’t afford to not do–albeit for a different reason.

Enough of my rambling. Welcome. Kick of your shoes and stay a while. Pardon the mess.