NaNoWriMo: I Cheated

Okay, cheating at a self imposed deadline is basically cheating yourself. In most cases I would say cheating yourself is a bad idea, in this case it was an accomplishment I had to complete.

Five minutes till midnight on the 30th I was 1100 words short on my NaNo project. I managed to write TEN THOUSAND words that day. That is a feat that usually takes me two weeks, and I did it in one day. When midnight came I decided to give myself an hour to finish, and declare myself a winner.

I put in my numbers, and continued writing. At 1:03 am I hit 50,011 words.

Each year when I do NaNoWriMo I set out with one goal, learn something new about my writing, or myself. Win or loose the actual challenge I have always learned something. This year was no different. This year I had no excuses to “lose” the challenge, so figuring out the secret to winning made all the difference. And it was such a simple thing, and yet so difficult, to figure out.

Time management.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with time management. For most of my life my time was dictated by a job, or school for my children or myself. Things like doctors appointments, shopping trips, and even sleep revolve around the schedule dictated by someone else. When I was free of all that I thought “now I have time to write,” but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

There are so many things to distract us. Sometimes we get bogged down in those things, turn on the tv and sink into episode after episode of whatever we’re interested in, or loose hours in a game. It’s easy. It’s fun. It makes us happy. And when you don’t have that daily thing like a day job to set your schedule to it’s so much easier just to say “I’ll get to that later.”

So this year during NaNoWriMo I learned that I have to find some balance to my schedule. It doesn’t have to be strict, and it can change when necessary, but I had to find something that worked for me so I could prioritize the important things.

The first thing I did, which worked fantastic to get me through the end of NaNoWriMo, was download Toggl. With this app I was able to track what I was doing, for how long, and actually get a good look at how much time I was wasting. Once I logged things into the app I could click a button to easily toggle tracking for specific things. Items can be lumped in to projects so you can easily see where time is spent. For me house care includes cooking, cleaning, and taking care of things for the home. Admin includes marketing, blog posts, and research. Writing is….writing. And me time is all the gaming, reading, and everything else I do just for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last three days I only tracked 24 hours. It’s going to take some time to get used to using it, but the app is going to help me increase my productivity by allowing me to see where all my time is going. It takes away all the excuses and shows you exactly what you’re using your time for.

I want to track everything for a few weeks to get a base line of where my time goes, but once I have that base line I expect I will only track work and household related time.

Of course this has a second consequence… I had been using the excuse that I was “working up” to 2k words a day. I learned that when I am writing well I write 33 words a minute, that’s about 1k every half hour. Of course editing, and certain tough chapters, will be slower, but the more I think about it the more I realize I should be writing a whole lot more every week. I will have to see how far I can get if I work harder to put in the time.

Expect more updates as I get this time management thing under control, and hopefully that means new books as well. After all, I just wrote 50k words in one of them.

The sea is deep and full of terrors.

The first trilogy I published is set in the Sea of Tears where witches are hunted, and the kraken is feared. There is more to this world than the island nation, and I hope to revisit it some day.

This weekend you can get the first novel in this exciting trilogy for free. Witch’s Sacrifice, the first steps in this dark fantasy.

 

Also an update to Vertigo. It is available on WattpadRoyalRoad, and now WebNovel. I add a new chapter every Saturday, and there are currently five chapters up. You can follow it there, and I will occasionally send out emails to notify when several new chapters are up.
Vertigo is a side quest for The Hub world based around trading card games.

 

Next month is NaNoWriMo and I already have the fourth book of The Hub World series planned and ready to go. Currently I’m working on the second book in The Half Blood Sorceress series. I’d like to get both out soon. I’ll give you an update on that after NaNoWriMo.

Until then, keep reading!

NaNoWriMo Prep

National Novel Wring Month, or more commonly known as NaNoWriMo, is in just a couple week.

Ah, November, the month of wracking your brain, keyboards clacking, and endless words. A month in which insane people get together on forums, and coffee shops, and write 50,000 words of a story. How I love it!

I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for many years now. I have “won” all of them except for the last two. And this year I want to get back on the horse, so I’m changing things up a bit.

I know that I find it easier to write if I know what I’m writing. Thankfully I have a new outline of 3400 words. Most of my outlines usually end up about 10% of the actual book length, but I know where I need to fill in the story a bit more so I’m fairly confidant this story can get to 50k easily.

Last year I had an outline for a story but failed, and it wasn’t because the outline wasn’t good. I still think I’d like to revisit that story at some point, but it was a story in a new world that I hadn’t developed, or found a voice for. That made it nearly impossible for me to write. I kept rewriting sections, deleting parts, or stalling out because I had a setting, world, and plot, but the characters weren’t developed. I didn’t know who they were, and I couldn’t find their voice.

This year I’m working on book 4 in a series that is already established. I know the characters, their weaknesses, their desires, and the trouble their going to find. This will help me keep going for most, if not all of the month.

The lovely thing about starting a new story…. I can write so much in the first few weeks of it, getting ideas out of my head, and finding a rhythm easily. It’s after that lovely burst of creativity fades that I finally come up for air and the dreaded internal editor rears its ugly head. I fight the foul demon off again, and make a mad dash for the finish line, only to be tripped up by him moments from the crossing. This time I will scrape the internal editor off my bruised muse, shove it back in a bottle, and keep going. I intend to win.

I’ve also been making a discovery about my writing habits. For the longest time I wrote in the evenings after the children went to bed, when I had a few moments to myself. Now that I don’t have children I find that I tend to get lost in youtube, or a book, or something else if I let myself. I used to hate writing in the morning before my brain was fully awake, but I’m starting to realize that is now the best time for me to start. Because if I start, and I just get a hundred words out before my coffee, then it’s easier to keep going.

This is a massive change, and really hard for me to do. I used to sit down with a warm coffee of coffee, and something for breakfast with something cheerful to watch on youtube. It was my way of waking up fully, and greeting the day.

Now I’m shoving that all aside. Actively trying to avoid anything other than words for the first moments of the day. It is a habit built over decades, and it will take a while to break it, but I’m confidant I can.

I will be writing more blog posts next month so that I can keep up on my writing and share what is happening on that front. Look forward to that.

#NaNoWriMo Fail

I am not winning NaNoWriMo this year. I guess I didn’t even really enter it. This is the first time in years that I haven’t even tried to do NaNoWriMo.

Even though I am not doing NaNo this year I’m still being productive. I’m finishing the last little bit of book two, and three for my litRPG series. I also took the first week of November to finish edits on book one, and publish it. It’s precisely because I’m doing all the edits right now that I am not participating. Edits take longer, and make fewer words,but are still incredibly important to get a book out. And I want book two or before Christmas!

But maybe I can have my own NaNo in January or something. We will see. First: Let’s get these books out!

NaNoWriMo 2017 Aftermath

It is December first, and NaNoWriMo is over. Now we are all celebrating our victories, or licking our wounds. I am doing both.

For the second time in nine years I’ve failed NaNoWriMo, but boy did I come close. 4365 words from my goal, and I just could not go on. My brain, and my fingers, just gave out. I had been pushing all day long, and I managed to write 7284 words in one day, but I just couldn’t get those last four thousand words.

This was an incredible month, and I learned more about myself, and my novel, than I would have any other time. I threw away chapters, and rewrote a whole synopsis. I got stuck on the novel and went over to write some short stories for the day. I gave up on the original idea I thought I’d write because it just didn’t work. And I got that much closer to finishing book two and three of the new series.

Why did I fail? Well, I had a slow start. I fell into my stride about half way through the month, and finally found what I needed to say. That drove the story forward, and the words piled up. Had I found that story, and my perseverance, a couple weeks sooner I wouldn’t have had that epic writing day at the end.

However, that day writing 7k words was pretty exciting. That shows me that it’s possible, and if I keep pushing myself, and my endurance, some day I might be able to do writing days like that regularly.

I can make excuses about being distracted by life, children getting the flu, and feeling down the first week of this month, but ultimately they are all excuses. The truth is we all have those things happen. Life is not fair, life does not care if you’re trying to write every night. It simply is, and sometimes you have a bad day and you have to write anyway.

So I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, and you, and show exactly why I failed this years writing challenge.

First, for me I know that if I don’t write for a few days it is really difficult for me to keep writing. If I take a week off it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things. If something stressful is going on it’s that much worse.

So here is a chart showing how many words I’ve written every year for the last five years.

I have one month left in 2017, and I am 83,000 words behind my worst year out of the last five. And 48,000 of those words were written in one month. THAT, dear reader, is why I lost NaNoWriMo. Not because the kids were sick and we had to take them to the hospital. Not because I lost the story. Not because I had a couple bad days, or didn’t get enough sleep. It’s because I haven’t written that much this year anyway.

It’s not easy to look at this chart. Writing has been an incredibly important thing for me for as long as I can remember, and it’s upsetting to see how little care I put into my writing this year. Yes, I’ve written 65,000 words just on my new series, but that’s half as much as I wrote on the Witch’s Curse books each year when I was working to get them finished. And the question is why? Why did I give up? Why didn’t I push myself? Why did I choose video games over writing? Or a movie? Or a craft?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot these days. What do I want out of my life? Out of day job? Out of my writing? And I think that’s why I’ve been writing less. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to focus on, because I wasn’t sure if it could get me the one thing I wanted more than anything.

Gregg, my boyfriend, started his own business this year. He works harder than ever, but he’s happier then he’s ever been. And he’s his own boss. No one to be accountable to accept himself (and maybe his audience) and….well no management to look over his shoulder, count the beans, and make sure he’s “doing his job right.” He’s accountable to himself, his art, and fans he’s gathering. And he’s so happy!

That’s what I want for myself, I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Writing seems to be the thing that I’m best at, but I’m still pretty horrible at marketing. I know that because I’ve tried a LOT of marketing this year with maybe okay results. But we live, we learn, and we try something new, right?

The world is a strange place. We have adages like “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and “fake it till you make it” but no one tells you that someone has to weed the yard. Someone has to fix the plumbing. Someone has to pick up the trash. They probably didn’t want that for their life’s work either, but there they are. Supporting their family and doing a job so they can have a home, and set the table every night. But when you believe those adages and you aren’t doing what you love as a job you start to feel like you’re not good enough. And so here I was, feeling like I wasn’t good enough. Wondering if I should just give up and let writing be a hobby, like video games or crafts, instead of just working my butt of for the next novel, and trying to make a living on it.

And the truth is I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever be able to make enough so that I can stop working for someone else. I don’t know if I will ever get a book out that strikes a cord with readers. I don’t know…if I’m good enough. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. I love to write, and I’m going to keep doing it.

So, this NaNoWriMo I learned to stop wallowing in my own self pity, and wondering what if, and just enjoy writing the story again.

And that’s what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow. Today was a day for reflection.

5min- Finished! 

Back in April of 2015 I got a fantastic idea for a story by looking at a lonely piece of art. The art was looking for a book to be a cover for, and it would be a fantastic cover. Unfortunately it was a pro artist and I can’t afford his rates. But that didn’t stop me from writing the story. 

So in. May of 2016, a year later, I started outlining the series. Five books. Five complete stories, each one with a valuable part to play in making one girl, Sybel, who she needs to be to save everyone from an unknown danger. I started writing  it during NaNoWriMo 2016. 

And tonight I’ve completed the first novel in that series! 

It feels so good to be done. I wrote the first draft, went through line by line to clean up any plot holes and add descriptions to some areas, and I’m finally satisfied that it’s ready to go to the editor. 

So happy! And I  can’t wait to share it with all of you. 

And that’s my five. 

NaNoWriMo Aftermath

It’s December, that means holiday cheer, Christmas music, and reflecting back on NaNoWriMo, and what I learned this year.

Ifnov you were following my twitter you might already know that I failed NaNoWriMo this year. In fact it’s the first time in over five years that I’ve lost NaNo. I only got 38,309 words written. Still, I managed an average of 1200 words a day, which isn’t a bad showing. But I didn’t win.

This year was a very slow start. I remember being frustrated, and having to force myself to sit down and write for that first week. And even when I did finally sit down I didn’t have a lot of time. I often became tired, and just gave up after 800-1200 words with the idea that I’d make it up the next week. Only the next week didn’t come. Not really.

I had my moments. Days in which I hit 2200, one glorious moment when I hit 3200. But it was the small days in which I only got 300, or 400 words that caused me to fail. If I had written at least 1000 words a day then the other days, the days when I strove for better, when the story was hitting it’s mark, I would have earn my 50,000 words.

But, there’s a lesson to be learned from the failing, and that is why I do NaNoWriMo every year. Not for the win, not for the words I get ahead in my writing (though that’s nice) but for the things I learn about myself.

This year my heart just didn’t seem to be in NaNoWriMo. It was hard to write, hard to find the words, hard to follow the story at times. I think there were three things that lead to my inability to write as much as I would have liked.

My story wasn’t focused.

I am a both a plotter, and a pantser. I write simple beat style plots for my story (x did this, then did this, then this happened.) Then from those notes I do the actual story. Most of the time it works, but it really depends on how detailed the plot is. Sometimes, like this time, the story grows outside of the original beats and I have to completely rework the novel. This time I had a 2600 word plot exasperated into individual chapters, which a running story line going through it all. But after writing it I realized that pacing and character development weren’t completed. I needed more story. Whole chapters and scenes needed to be added in. More characters created.

I ended up having to rewrite the entire plot line to see what I had already written, and what was missing. That took a couple days, and I still need to do more of it for the last few chapters. The novel is 35,000 words at the moment, but I’m only about half way through the novel.

This plot shifting caused a huge hiccup in my writing schedule. I had to figure out what I was writing before I could even attempt to go forward. But once I did figure it out I had some really good word count days.

My family was more important.

My schedule changed when I got a new job a few months ago. The new schedule means that I go to bed shortly before Gregg (my boyfriend) is getting up. I often get home to find him already asleep, or headed that way. This means we don’t get as much quality time together. And, to be frank, that sucks.

We have had to consciously make time for one another. Adjust sleep schedules. Nap if needed. Anything so that we can spend a little bit of time with one another. My writing has suffered because I’d rather spend time with my boyfriend when I’m able, talking, laughing, and enjoying his company, than finishing my book.

Hopefully our schedules will be more compatible after January, but only time will tell for sure.

I was distracted.

Election day was November 8th, and like many people in the USA I was distracted, watching the debates, reading forum posts and news articles, listening to opposing arguments for and against. I was fascinated by everything happening, and disturbed in many ways. I’m a centrist, I like to vote based on facts, not feelings, so I was appalled by things on both side of this election. Some things more than others, but just because one side is more wrong then the other it didn’t mean I ignored the problem with the apposing side.

I tried avoiding stating my personal viewpoints most of the time online because there were so many people who were just being entirely hateful to one another, on both sides, and it hurt to watch friendships falling apart. One of the few times I spoke up I lost a friend over it. So I stayed quiet for the most part, listening but not saying anything very much except to a few friends, and my boyfriend.

Than one night my boyfriend said “you know what, you should write about these things. It’s clearly eating you up inside, and you need to get these thoughts out. Try writing it down.”

So I did. In the graph above you’ll see two sections. Blue for “The Half Blood Sorceress” series which was my NaNo project. Red for the political writings I started to do. You’ll notice I had a lot to say at first, and it lessoned over time. You’ll also note that as soon as I started getting all of those questions and ideas about politics, society, and social obligations out of my head….I finally started to really work on my book.

(Green is for blog posts and news letters. I don’t count them in my NaNo word counts, but I do keep track of them.)

Will I ever publish those words talking about social inequalities and observations? Maybe, possibly. If I do it won’t be under my name though. It’s too dangerous. People get really mad about politics, and lately it seems there are more people who think that if you don’t agree with them 100% then you’re wrong and they will attack you. I’m a centrist, so that’s not good for me. Both sides tend to attack those in the middle.

Conclusions

Considering my heart just wasn’t in NaNo this year, I still did damn good with my writing. I rarely write 30k in a month. The fact hat I was almost at 40k this month, even with my heart completely somewhere else, means I didn’t do that badly. I’m kind of proud of that.

But it also means I have no excuse for writing less than 30k a month (unless I’m incredibly sick, or my world is falling apart.) Writing is part of me, it keeps me sane. It lets me focus my thoughts, and discuss the world and what I see in it. Writing helps me to understand the world around me.

If I manage another 30k for the month of December than I will have written another quarter of a million words this year. If I can manage that then maybe next years goal will be half a million.

Time to get writing.