NaNoWriMo – Recap

I meant to have one more post on NaNo for next Tuesday, but I didn’t expect to finish my 50k a week ahead of schedule. As such. πŸ™‚ This is the last NaNo post from me this year.

This was my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I chose to write the third and final novel in my Striped Ones Series. The first novel, Shadow Cat, is complete and in the final stages of editing. Feel free to read the excerpt here. Still looking for beta readers, by the way. πŸ™‚ Or if you would like to review it, drop me a note (reenajacobs at reenajacobs dot com). The second in the series, Stray Cat, only has about 10k written. But since NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel from start to finish, I skipped to the end. And so we have Alley Cat. A quick look at my stats.

  • Current Word Count: 52,029
  • Date hit 50k: 11/23/2010
  • Highest word count in a day: 3397 (November 12, 2010)
  • Lowest word count in a day: 685 (November 25, 2010)
  • Wrote for 25 days straight

For the record, I haven’t written since November 25, 2010. So what do I have to show for my 25 days worth of work? I have a nearly finished rough draft of Alley Cat. I have yet to write one chapter, possibly a epilogue, and two or three scenes I skipped. For now, I’m setting Alley Cat aside. I’ll fill in the missing chapters when I return for a second pass in a few months.

Sure winning NaNo is great, but truly the biggest advantage of participating in it is the rough draft. I finally feel like a real writer. Why? Because now I have two stories under my belt. After writing Shadow Cat it was more of a hobby feeling–yeah, I did it. One more thing I’d tried. This time around it was more of a feeling, I did it, and Shadow Cat wasn’t a fluke.

I’m sure lots of folks have tips and tricks on how to win NaNo. I won’t even pretend I have some secret ingredient, but I’ll share what worked for me.

  • Set goals: Despite not having a day job other than chasing my rugrat around the house, I knew writing 16 hours a day seven days a week wasn’t for me. So I set a goal to write 5 days a week M-F, which came to about 2300 words a day. I managed to meet that goal all but two days. Though I didn’t schedule writing for the weekend, I managed to squeeze some in anyway. I set a tentative goal of 1667 words, which is the daily word count suggested by NaNo. If I didn’t meet it, no big deal, but it was always a boon when I did.
  • No excuses: I’m not talking about family emergencies and such. Real life can definitely get in the way of writing. I’m talking about the lame excuses which really are about lack of motivation and the desire to procrastinate while diminishing the guilt. There were days I didn’t want to write. It would have been so easy to say I had church that day, had to play with my son, or had to prepare for my Thanksgiving guests (who stayed from November 25-28). Sure I had all those things in my life, but really church doesn’t take up 24 hours of my day, my son naps and doesn’t need me to entertain him 24/7, and preparing for Thanksgiving doesn’t take 30 days. Granted, most folks don’t have as lax of a schedule as my SAHM one, but in the end it’s about dedication. Even if people don’t have the time on their hand or the typing speed to crank out 1667-2300 words a day, I bet they have at least 10-30 minutes they can squeeze in somewhere to add a few words to their manuscript.
  • Outline: A couple of days before NaNo started I created character profiles for my hero and heroine. Kind of a get to know you session. Then I created a thorough outline, plotting every scene I planned to write. Shadow Cat I wrote by the seat of my pants. I’d tried outlining in the past and have quite a few on standby. But Alley Cat is the first story I’ve finished from beginning to end using an outline. Having an outline was useful because when I hit scenes I didn’t want to write (and I had quite a few of them), I could skip ahead to a scene which interested me without worrying about plot integrity. I will admit my outline changed slightly as I progressed. I eliminated one plot arc dealing with scenes I’d previously skipped. I figured if I couldn’t interest myself to write them, no one else would be interested in reading them. haha
  • Knowing the best times to write: I’m a night owl, and mornings and I don’t get along. In fact, I can remember the last time I went to bed at 6 am, but can’t remember the last time I woke up at 6 am. Getting any significant writing done in the early afternoon didn’t work so well for me. But about 4 pm, my brain woke up, and we were revved to go. Knowing that, I didn’t force myself to write early in the day. In fact, most of my major writing occurred past 8 pm.

So now that NaNo is over, what’s next? I gave myself the rest of November off. I’m not going to pretend. Writing like a maniac for 25 days wore me out. Come December 1st, I’ll be back to putting the finishing touches on Shadow Cat. I’m setting a goal of 1 scene a day, no excuses. πŸ™‚ I have 20-30 scenes left, so finishing it up in December should be no problem. Come January, I plan on doing my own personal NaNo and knocking out book two of the Striped Ones series.

Novel Review: My Lord Hades by Stephannie Beman

I’ve been getting my feet wet lately with Indie authors. It’s been an experience for me. πŸ™‚ It’s taken me a bit to warm up to indie work, but I’m seeing many of the story lines are just as entertaining as works published the traditional way. Up this week, I decided to give My Lord Hades byΒ  Stephannie Beman a try. I have to admit, I cheated before diving head first in this work. I headed over to Smashwords and download the sample. About 87% into the sample, I decided to hit up Ms. Beman on her giveaway offer. For a review of My Lord Hades, she’ll provide you a copy for free. Her offer ends tomorrow, by the way. So it’s not too late receive your own review copy. The blurb from Ms. Beman’s website:

In a world where Gods rule and Daemons are feared, Hades, the most notorious Phlegethon daemon-god to roam the ancient world, is released from his prison in Tartarus by the Olympian Zeus to aid in the war against the Titians.

Past shrouded in darkness, Persephone, daughter of the earth goddess Demeter, heals from the ordeal that stole her memories and the magic that is an integral part of who she once was. When she meets a stranger in the woods, her life is forever changed. But does she have the courage to stand against the will of the other gods and claim the only man she has ever loved when any moment could bring back her memories and change her feelings for him?Β  Does she have the strength to keep what is hers when an ancient enemy returns to destroy all she has worked for?

Betrayed by the Gods he once served, battle-weary Hades promised to never allow another god power over him, but he didn’t plan on the intervention of the Fates intertwining his future with the stunning woman dancing in the moonlight, or the rise of his Phlegethon nature that demands he claim her as his own. Persephone has become the siren calling him, promising the completion of heart and soul, but only a fool accepts the gifts of a siren, or fight against the will of the Fates.

I downloaded my sample and dipped my foot in. I was a little tentative… okay, a lot tentative. πŸ™‚ Am I going to like it? I hope it’s good, my mind said as I read. A few hours later, the sun was rising, and I’d stopped squinting at My Lord Hades like it was out to get me. I could have starred in the Mikey Life Commercials. “She likes it. She likes it. She really likes it.” I sent off a request and a coupon for a free copy was in my emailbox when I woke up the next afternoon. πŸ™‚

Let’s start with the characters.Β  Ms. Beman did a great job giving each of her characters a distinctive voice. Hades was burdened yet honorable. He was a break away from the gloomy Guses who are popular in many works today. Of all the characters, I’d say he was the most tenderhearted. Yet he was caring in a way which didn’t detract from his masculinity. Well, done. πŸ™‚ I liked him.

Persephone reminded me of a butterfly or Snow White. πŸ™‚ Picture the scene where Snow White or any of the Disney Damsels who sing, dance, and just enjoy life. That was Persephone. I worried I’d grow tiresome of her frolicking, but as the plot unfolded, so did other facets of her personality. I admit, Persephone wasn’t one of my favorite heroines. Mostly because I don’t go for the damsels in distress type. However, Ms. Beman gave excellent rationales behind Persephone’s early behavior and by the end of the story, there was definitely character growth.

Plot wise. πŸ™‚ I’m a sucker for Greek mythology. I got into it when I was a young girl, and it’s held my interest ever since. I expected to read a typical mythology about Hades and Persephone with the same old storyline, but fleshed out as Ms. Beman gave it her own voice. Boy was I wrong. πŸ™‚ Ms. Beman took liberties in weaving this story. Much is the same, so that it has the Greek Mythology feel, but a few deviations here and there really added a flare. It kept me on my toes, since I wasn’t sure how the storyline would differ from what I’ve read of Hades and Persephone in the past.

I know this is a nitpicking type of thing. But if you’ve read my other reviews, you know I’m prone to it. The story starts with a Prologue. Now I’m one to read prologues cause I’m afraid of missing things. This year, I found many people skip over the prologue. The prologue for My Lord Hades reads like a first chapter. It’s a shame Ms. Beman didn’t label it as such. I think she missed an opportunity there.

One item I believe this work could have benefited from was another pass at editing. Even so, the characters were well-fleshed. The plot was interesting and fresh. Overall, I enjoyed it. πŸ™‚ Not bad for a debut novel.

A couple of my favorite lines:

  • Yes, I’ve been lurking in the forest waiting to ravish you, Persephone.
  • “Has it been so long that you don’t remember what men and women do behind closed doors?”

My Lord Hades available atΒ Barnes & NoblesΒ ||Β AmazonΒ ||Β KoboΒ ||Β iTunesΒ ||Β Smashwords

The Insecure Writer

ο»ΏI’ve been writing for a little over a year. Pride bubbled in me when I finished my first manuscript. I honestly thought I was ready to be published after the first draft. Okay, maybe after passing through it with one quick edit. Yeah, I know you’re laughing. I just figured my job was to write the story, while the editor’s job was to edit the draft. Boy was I wrong.

My first clue was after submitting my work to a critique group. I tell you, they ripped into my manuscript like they were shredding sensitive documents. It didn’t discourage me though. I only became more determined to get it right. Cause I absolutely knew I had a novel worth publishing.

That’s not to say I didn’t have some tough times. A few times I cried over some of the things the meanies said about my work. But once the tears dried, I went right back to the drawing board, ready to prove them wrong.

So if I’m so determined, what’s with the insecure writer crap? The second guessing! Oh My Word! Sifting through the critiques drive me insane. Everyone has their little pet peeve. There are a hundred billion gazillion guidelines folks think are “rules.” And I’m constantly asking myself, “should I follow their advice?” “If I do, will I improve my work or make it drab?”

Then there’s the whole, “I’m not so fond of this piece of advice; I’m not going to use it.” Will the critter be offended when he/she sees the non-changes?

GAH! the stress of it all!!! And it all leads to, will readers love or hate my story?

So what do I do? Push on and hope for the best. It may not be the most effective method, but it’s what I have for now.

How do you deal with writer insecurity?

NaNoWriMo – Update 4

One of the hardest things about writing my WIP is the fact the first draft sucks. I can only give NaNo part of the blame. Cause the first draft of my Shadow Cat novel also sucked. Not as bad, but pretty close. After a year of on and off editing, I believe Shadow Cat is starting to come together. I still have a lot of trimming, editing, and revising, but I’m confident the finished product will to my liking.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay that Alley Cat (NaNo WIP) has scenes that won’t remain and a lot of scenes that’ll need rewriting… not just editing but a thorough reworking. One thing I can say about NaNo is it’s given me the getterdun attitude. Something I haven’t felt since Aug-Oct 2009 while working on the first draft of Shadow Cat. It’s a great feeling to know I’ve written two novels, even if neither are ready for publication.

Once NaNo is over, I’m going to work on the edits of Shadow Cat while finishing Regina’s Story. Remember Brandon’s Wife from Control Freak? Yeah… that’s the one. Then it’s on to writing the sequel to Shadow Cat which only has about 10k words thus far. As I mentioned earlier, I skipped to the third and final book (Alley Cat) for my NaNo work because I’d yet to start it.

I think if I alternate between editing and writing a book, I can really give a serious go at a writing career.

This week went by quite well. I met my 2300 goal M-F everyday except for Wednesday. And even then I came in close with 2k. I even made a pretty good run on the weekend adding 3624 words. I ended my week at 47425 words.

As far as my novel itself, it’s coming to an end. I’ve filled in most of the blanks. By this Wednesday I hope to have my 50k which should complete my first draft of Alley Cat. Perfect timing, cause I believe November 25 (Thanksgiving) is also the first date participants can validate their entries.