NaNoWriMo ā€“ 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. šŸ™‚ 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. šŸ™‚ 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. šŸ™‚ 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.

NaNoWriMo: Iā€™m Starting to Cave

I’ve been telling myself, I don’t have time for NaNoWriMo. I’ve got to get the edits done on Shadow Cat.

Okay, I’m starting to falter in my resolve. I have three books planned for the Shadow Cat series. Obviously, Shadow Cat is complete but needs editing. I started the 2nd book, so it’s really a no-go for NaNoWriMo. However, I have still have the last book. It’s outlined, but I don’t think I have a single word written of it. Oh how I’d love to have it finished and only have to worry about edits for it.

Here’s the thing. Can I force myself to write without edits? The whole idea scares me. I hate failing. A little over a week left to decide. Holy Cow. Well, I put my name on the list ReenaJacobs. šŸ™‚ Big surprise there.

I’m thinking I should at least try. See if I can do the straight through without editing thing. I wrote Shadow Cat by the seat of my pants, and it took me 2 1/2 months to finish it (about 80k on the first draft). I didn’t know enough about writing to worry about editing the hell out of it.

Maybe NaNoWriMo is what I need. A 50k goal, no editing, just producing. Screw quality, just get the story down. Maybe this is what will get me stoked about writing again. Cause I’m telling you, my drive has waned.

šŸ™‚ Buddy a Newbie! —> ReenaJacobs

Well, if I’m going to do this, I need to work a bit more on my outline.

Good luck to all who are giving NaNoWriMo a try. Hopefully I’ll see you there…once I gather my courage and motivation. šŸ™‚

I scurd

<——First off, I added a subscribe by email link on my left sidebar for those who want to keep up to date on my ramblings. šŸ™‚

Now for the real post. My mama warned me about getting into the wrong crowds. The pastor preached about the media I put into my head. They were right.

It all started with Zoe Who? and her crazy ideas of selling books in the Walmart parking lot. I mean really. That Zoe girl has a lot of nerve filling my head with ideas and such. Who does she think she is?

I was perfectly unhappy to wallow in my pile of rejections. After all, I only revised my query letter about 36 times. Maybe I’ll revise twice today just to outdo Brad.

Seriously though. I’d stopped writing for a long period of time. A couple of months I’ll say. The whole traditional publishing thing is such a downer. You know it took me a two and half months to write the first draft of Shadow Cat? I was so excited and motivated. I’d beaten the odds and finished a book. How many people could say they’d done that? Yet I’ve still to finish another book.

Then I got into the critique groups, which are invaluable for developing prose as long as I don’t let them take over my work. There’s always more to learn, but I’m getting there.

I’ll be honest though. Eventually I did stop participating in critique groups. The negativity really dragged me down. There was always someone who didn’t like something about my characters or the way I laid out a scene. No matter how many changes I made, someone was always unhappy. Just too many hands in the pot. I guess that’s why agents tell their clients not to read book reviews. Then again, that goes back to not letting critters take over my work.

Okay, I’m rambling. So, I’ve tried to be strong. I’ve played the game. I’ve gotten my fair share of rejections. And you know what? All it’s done is sap my will to write. The whole process of doing the traditional publishing route is just so exhausting. Not just that, but depressing. I have a few works in process now and dread the idea of going through another query round when I finish. I’m confident in these works in progress.

I’m excited about these pieces, like when I finished Shadow Cat. I don’t want to feel about them the way I feel about Shadow Cat. Just the idea of opening the file makes me apprehensive. The phrase “not good enough” comes to me again and again.

Funny thing. In my mind, I still think Shadow Cat is a great storyline. Deep down, I still love it. I know many writers look back on their old work and think it’s crap. But I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’m still wondering why agents don’t want it. One agent was kind enough to give me insight after reading my query: “I’m a little oversaturated with shapeshifter UR and PR and this one doesn’t stand out as anything fresh or different.”

As a PR junkie myself, I can understand that. It takes a bit to get me revved about PR these days also. Yet, I’ve not read any stories like mine. Of course that means nothing since I haven’t read EVERY PR out there. šŸ™‚ Still, my research shows it’s yet to be done. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just wishful.

I know, I know. Get on with it. You’re probably thinking, if you’re book rambles like this, it’s no wonder you’re not published. šŸ™‚ So what I’m getting at here is, why can’t I self-publish. I’ve had readers in critique groups excited to read more after the first 3-5 chapters. I get apprehensive about posting more than the first few. It’s just a bit too public for me to feel comfortable offering more. But perhaps they’d enjoy the rest of the novel too.

Lately I’ve gotten a boost of motivation at the idea of not having to go through the traditional route. But like I said, I scurd. I don’t want to embarrass myself by publishing crap. The appeal of traditional publishing is having many, many eyes on my draft before going to print. I also don’t want to bore readers with scenes that drag. But as someone so close to my work, how do I know what’s what?

Then there’s editing. Who will I get to edit my work? So many people advertise editing services, but I don’t know where to start. wah wah wah. I can go on, but you get the point. I’m just so overwhelmed with the venture, it’s paralyzed me into inactivity.

For you self-publishing gurus out there. How did you get started? What was the first step after writing your book (and polishing it, of course)? Someone needs to publish a non-fiction called “How to Self-Publish a Book that Doesn’t Suck.”

Now for a bit of a self-advertising. I am looking for a beta readers. If you’re interested in checking out the first three chapters of Shadow Cat, fill out the Beta Reader Form or go to my Got Beta Reader? post for more information.

So, share with me your fears and successes of self-publishing. Offer advice. I’m listening. šŸ™‚

Let’s talk about…

Do agents get together and decide which blog topics to discuss with writers? I swear just about every agent is talking about burning out on writing this week. Okay, I’m going to hop on that band wagon late.

I haven’t been so much burnt out as unmotivated. Don’t get me wrong, I did hit a burnt out stage. That faded into this current blah, I’d rather do something else than write stage.

I’m hoping that’s about the change. For some reason, my motivation to write has been growing exponentially over the day. Yet I haven’t really done anything about it. So, I pulled up one of my many works in progress (WIP) and looked at it all of three seconds. šŸ™‚ Then I remembered! Friday is almost here. I need to get my blog post up. Yep…As I said, I’d rather be doing something else. šŸ™‚ And it looks like I’m doing just that.

Shame on me for not staying with my WIP. After all, writing is supposed to take precedence, right? Oh well, guess we’ll play by my rules tonight. But I will get to writing tonight. I promise!

Nathan Bransford asked this week in reference to burnout, “How Do You Escape It?” Well, I don’t know the answer to that question. If you’re looking for some profound answer, feel free to search the answers his readers gave. šŸ™‚

I will tell you how I got to the burnt out stage in the hope of avoiding it in the future. It all began way back when. (I need someone to do that wave screen thing so we can fade to the flashback). I typed the final word of my novel and was ready to find a publisher. Do you hear squealing brakes? Yeah, I was naive enough to think a first draft was ready for submission. The only thing which stopped me was the desire to receive a little validation on my work. So I found a critique group and submitted the first chapter. I tell you what I didn’t get: VALIDATION. šŸ™‚

The next few months I learned about deep POV, showing versus telling, and a bunch of other things I can’t remember right now. šŸ™‚ Then I applied what I learned to my manuscript. If only that was the easy part. But no…there’s querying and writing the perfect query letter, which I haven’t mastered, by the way. But that’s another story. Then there were the contests and editing and revising and querying more and revising and editing and and and and… <big breath>

And then there was complete confusion. What the heck do these people want? Unique, but not so unique there’s no market for it? Uhm…okay. I’ll find something that hasn’t been done even though I haven’t read everything and have no idea what hasn’t been done.

So now that I’m working on new projects, I know what I won’t do, which led to my initial burn out. OVER EDIT. I kept thinking if I edit my work enough someone would want it. Though I’ve had a few bites amongst the many rejection, I’ve determined that’s not the case. Of course the writing needs to be there, but no amount of editing will change the initial story line. Either an agent/editor likes the story or he/she doesn’t.

One day I’ll revisit Shadow Cat and see if I can revamp the story line (mostly for my personal amusement). But as far as editing and revising in the hope of snagging an agent or editor, I’m done with that. With only 1% of writers landing an agent and even fewer making it to publishing, my focus needs to be on writing what I like and doing the best I can with me in mind. If something wonderful comes out of it, then Yay me! No more 42 revisions (which happens to be the answer to the meaning of life, by the way) until my brain feels like an old dusty cloth (you’d have to be my brain to understand what it feels like). Just the satisfaction of knowing I did my best, and my next story is on the horizon.

I’ve rambled too long. Anyway, I need to do something with my writing motivation before it fades. But before that, Tell me: What’s something positive you’ve taken away from the query process? And I’m not being sarcastic. Really, I mean it. For me it’s that the 1% agents want is so vague, it’s better to not flake out over what agent’s want and just enjoy writing for the sake of writing.