I’m not going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.
It was a difficult decision but I just finished a book and I’m on the cusp of finishing another non-creative project, plus there’s day job stuff and the holidays. I want to write in November–I want to write a lot in November–but NaNoWriMo would be unhelpful pressure.
In the two years I’ve done it, I’ve never won. I wrote about 30,000 words the first year I participated and just shy of 35,000 words last year, but I owe NaNoWriMo a great deal, including my entire career as a creative writer. I’d started the odd fictional thing before, but I’d never finished anything longer than a short story.
To inspire those who may be NaNoWriMo-ing, or considering it, here’s the opening of the book I started exactly two years ago today. There is so much here that’s bad. It’s fueled by insta-lust and relies on two strangers quoting Wallace Stevens to each other–which is one nerdy fantasy. And those are only the beginning of reasons this novel will never see the world outside of my hard drive.
Reading this reminds me how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. So get writing!
It wasn’t a call at all, actually. It was an email. But you know what I mean: the moment you get an offer from a publisher. The moment you start dreaming of long before you finish writing a book and which haunts you for years, until you begin to doubt that it ever will come true.
Mine came a couple of weeks ago.
Let’s rewind. I started writing fiction during National Novel Writing Month in 2011. My first effort, Together is Enough, is a primal scream about graduate school and the politics of higher ed wrapped in a romance novel. It’s basically a hot mess.
Despite the fact that Together is Enough is cliched, badly plotted, and not infrequently hilarious when it shouldn’t be, I enjoyed the writing. A lot. After a lifetime of reading fiction — obsessively, compulsively, voraciously — I was creating it.
It was hard, yo. And I had a lot to learn. Oh did I have a lot to learn! Continue reading
The other day, I had a conversation with a potential critique partner. She asked, “What kind of books do you want to write?”
I’m embarrassed to admit, I was a little stumped. What I eventually said is that I want to write historical romances that show as much interest and enthusiasm in American history as the best European (read: British) historicals do and that I want to write sexy, youthful contemporaries that capture what I feel like is missing in the market today (e.g., romance between smart, ambitious professionals, etc.). The manuscripts I’ve completed so far are all pretty serious. I’d also like to lighten things up a bit and have a little more fun, while remaining true to myself and my voice.
In the next year, I’d like to finish The Easy Part and revise it. I want to finish the revisions of Brave in Heart and Together is Enough. I want to write a full-length book for the Dauntless Love series plus one other manuscript (either the next book in that series or a sequel to The Easy Part). I want to win NaNoWriMo, either with one of those manuscripts or maybe with a third project. I want to send out query letters for Brave in Heart and The Easy Part. I want to get ready to enter a manuscript in the 2014 Golden Heart. If I haven’t been able to find an agent or a publisher or to final in Golden Heart, I want to prepare to self-publish in mid to late 2014.
Most of all, I want to improve my craft. I’m a better writer now than I was 12 months ago. I want to be a better writer still 12 months from now. This means writing every day, focusing on showing versus telling, keeping my dialogue realistic and light, and becoming a better planner.
What are your 2013 writing goals?
So I ended NaNoWriMo with 34,685 words. While I didn’t win, I did do better than last year. And I know that’s a lot more words than I would have written on my own without the NaNoWriMo gimmick. Yes, I wanted to have my manuscript finished and it’s not, but I made significant progress and had a lot of fun.
Here’s what I’ve learned from two attempts at NaNoWriMo:
- Write every day. Even if it’s only a few hundred words. Even if it’s just a few dozen words. Write something every single day.
- Don’t let a bad day get you down. I missed my goals for several days around the election. I pressed on, however, and got myself back on track. If I had done as well the last third of the month as the first two-thirds, I would have won.
- Ignore the rules. While the idea is to start a novel from scratch on day 1, if it doesn’t fit with your process/progress, it doesn’t mean that NaNoWriMo is a bad idea. Try to write 50,000 words on an existing manuscript. Or come up with an outline and do some research and start drafting on November 1. Make the concept work for you, however you work and wherever you’re at in your writing.
- No matter how you do, it’s probably better than you would have done without it, so celebrate however many words you write and hope to do better next year.
Now here’s to hoping I can finish The Easy Part before the end of the year.
I’m at that point in The Easy Part when I have to break the central couple up and seriously, I hate doing this. Someday I’m going to write a book where the central couple don’t get together until the very end just so that I can avoid writing painful scenes like the one I’m about to attempt.
For NaNoWriMo, I’m at 33,554 words, with 56,906 total in the manuscript. Let the bridge burning begin!
(Also, it isn’t on their blog but I think I can write about it: Brave in Heart finaled in the 2012 Novellas Need Love Too contest, sponsored by the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. Yay!)
To follow up on my previous post, anyone who has ever written fiction can agree that naming characters so that the results are believable and convey everything you want a name to convey is…hard. It’s like naming your children, if you somehow already knew everything about them and were trying to come up with the perfect label for all that awesome. Also, if you weren’t hemmed in by your partner’s preference, family requirements, and social convention. But I digress.
One of my favorite resources is Baby Center, which has a tool to display other “similar” names. This is great if you’re like me and the process of naming characters goes something like this.
“What would a WASP name her son? You know, something like Bradley but not?”
Which is how I ended up naming the hero in the manuscript I’m finishing now Parker.
The Social Security Administration database is good too, particularly if you want to find the top names from a specific decade. Before 1900, I also like this site, which uses data that SSA doesn’t have online.
And we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo and I’m at 21,889 words. Still just a bit behind but I’ve made up some of the ground I lost when I had serious election fever. Bad planning on someone’s part, that was. John Adams, I’m looking at you.
I’m at 16,689 words for NaNoWriMo. I’m about 5,000 words behind, though I haven’t done any writing today. With some consistency and luck, I might be able to win. At the very least, I’m making good progress on The Easy Part, which now has 40,035 words and should be done by the end of the year.
Really, though, this post mostly serves as a reminder to check your characters’ names against those not just of the other characters in the book you’re writing but those in your other WIPs. The heroine in the recently finished Brave in Heart? Margaret. The heroine in The Easy Part? Millie (short for Amelia). The heroine in Brave in Heart’s sequel, which I’m plotting in my head? Matilda.
Why am I so fixated on the letter M?
I can’t change any of these names. I’m far enough along in the characterization that it would be weird. Margaret is Margaret. Millie is Millie. Matilda is Matilda. But I think it’s safe to say that I’m done with M-named heroines for a while.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? I am!
I’m bending the rules a bit, trying to write the last 50,000 words to finish a manuscript that is already begun — The Easy Part, a contemporary single title romance set between political operatives in Washington, DC. Here’s to hoping I can “win” this year!
The first draft of Brave in Heart is complete. Here is a teensy-weensy teaser of the conclusion. Aren’t “the end” the most beautiful words in the English language?
Brave in Heart has been entered in the Novellas Need Love Too contests. Because, yes, I have a a contest entering problem. But also, I crave feedback deep in my soul.
I’d like to finish The Easy Part during NaNoWriMo — and yes, I know it’s not technically within the rules to to finish something you’ve already started, but oh well — and then start the second book in the Dauntless Love series in December.
Writing life is good.