Early Bird Launch for How to Write a Novel

Before NaNoWriMo started, I jumped in the first few lessons of Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Novel class, thinking of using the first few lessons to help generate ideas for the Against the Crown.

I eyerolled at the artifact I got in Lesson 1, thinking I knew exactly what the purpose of my artifact would be. I got a golden throne and already knew my villain was going to be the king. Duh…

Oh, how foolish of me to doubt Holly Lisle’s techniques, because I continued through the questions on my artifact, at which my muse promptly ran off cackling with the golden throne and I had a huge explosion of history, characters, and connections all tied in with the throne.

Now I’m staring at a 70,000+ word behemoth of a rough draft that would not have existed without that very first exercise.

I definitely didn’t run out of story for NaNoWriMo this year, thanks to some new techniques I learned this year in the first few lessons. Unfortunately, I had to pitch How to Write a Novel to one side for most of NaNoWriMo, because I’m getting one lesson a week, but NaNo had me writing much faster than that.

The reason I’m bringing up HTWAN is that Holly has opened the class up to new students for one week. If you’ve struggled with writing a novel, I recommend this class. If you’ve always wanted to write a novel, but never knew where to start, I recommend this class. If you think you’ve got novel writing in the bag, well, maybe you’ll learn some great new techniques, or different ways of looking at your story that will help you be a better author than ever before.

I’m continuing with the class to help me finish up Against the Crown, and I’m planning on taking a future novel through the class processes at some later date. I hope to see you in class!

Important: The class will close December 18, 2018 at 11:59:59 PM EST. The next time it is offered, the price will go up! Right now, the class is still being built, and is discounted.

Disclaimer: I’m one of Holly Lisle’s affiliates and will receive compensation for any purchases made through the link here. It doesn’t cost you a cent more, but it helps me out a lot.


Shiny New Story Distractions

Today has been the mental equivalent of my brain running around like my black labrador when you use the words “ball” and “outside” within a few seconds of each other.

Yep, she’s nuts, and so is my Muse.

In all honesty, the entire weekend was like that. I decided on Friday to take a little break from Against the Crown and pick up the short story that I’d written as a part of Holly Lisle’s How to Write Short Stories class. I gave it a final polish and bug check, then sent it off to a online magazine.

(eep! and yay!)

Then I kind of got a bit of an emotional high from that and began looking at writing another short story. Spent all of Sunday afternoon plotting it in conjunction with HTWSS’s Lesson 7.

Then began feeling guilty, because I was falling victim to the classic writer blunder of “Ooo! Shiny new story idea!”

I’ve done it before, and there are three files in my computer that are unfinished because either I took an extended break, or I got distracted by another project.

So tonight I spun around again, dug up Lesson 10 of Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Novel class, and plotted out where Against the Crown is going to go next.

I’ve got to finish Against the Crown before I put serious focus on writing more short stories, but that story is turning into more and more of a behemoth than I ever dreamed. At this point, it’s going to be 100,000 words or more, and that 100,000 word mark might not even get me where I want to be.

I have one idea that will end the story earlier than I’d like, but would leave a huge number of loose ends that would have to be tied up in a second book somehow, but I don’t honestly know how long that second book would be, so I might be better off just making one monster of a book.

Or a bit of work might make a sequel that will be a very nice length indeed.

I don’t know, but I guess I’ll have to keep writing until I figure it out.

How I Write Rough Drafts

There are only a few days of NaNoWriMo left. I’ve hit 50,000 words, and I’ve validated.

This gives me 12 years in a row I’ve participated and won NaNoWriMo. With those 12 years behind me, I feel like I’ve developed a fabulous system for writing rough drafts.

Or at least a system for getting words on page.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast by my favorite writing teacher, Holly Lisle and her daughter, Rebecca Galardo. Their podcast, Alone in a Room with Invisible People, has been a blast to listen to, and the episode on Writing Better Description was full of great information.

Holly and Becca often go off on tangents in the podcast and one that happened in this podcast was discussing how a writer should never edit while writing rough draft. Never. Both were very adamant about it. Never edit rough draft.

I highly recommend listening to the podcast, especially if you fall in the trap of revising while editing. They explain why it’s such a bad habit.

I’ve known a number of other writers who edit while writing. They usually just say, “Well, it’s just the way I write.” They say they can’t just write through a draft, and go revise later.

I disagree.

It took me years to finish my first story, because I had to make it perfect, and I kept coming up with better ways to change it and starting over and starting over and scrapping and starting over.

Guess what? When I finally finished that story, it was still a tangled broken mess that I’m still trying to fix 13 years later (fun fact: that first story is the first Sentinels of Mysera book).

I did the same with the second book in that series, starting, stopping, changing, editing as I went, until I hit a hard block. A block I couldn’t break for months. I did no writing.

It was at that time (2007) I learned about NaNoWriMo and decided to tackle the 3rd book, even though I didn’t have an end for the second yet. But given my previous track record, I didn’t even see how I could possibly write 50,000 words in 30 days. It’d taken me years to finish the 100,000 word  Sentinels of Mysera.

I followed the advice of many sage writers, and ignored that backspace key for the month of November in 2007.

It was the single best writing habit I developed.

I did not delete. I did not edit. I didn’t correct spellings or grammar errors. I just wrote.

And though, yes, that draft had errors in it, they are fixable. The holes in the story can be mended.

To prepare for this year’s Nano, I wanted to know a name I’d used for a city in my 2016 NaNo. I opened up Crafting the Badger’s Head, and started reading. And found myself utterly surprised. I hadn’t read it since writing it. I didn’t remember just how sassy my MC was. I didn’t remember some very key pivotal scenes I’d written. I was held spellbound by my own writing.

And it was nothing but a rough draft! Yes, there are holes. There are characters who walk on and then are never seen again, though they seem important at the time. There are breaks in plot.

But the bones of that story are really good!

If I’d been revising while writing, I wouldn’t have had all those fun gems and witty bits that came out. I probably would have deleted some of those great scenes, because my left brain wouldn’t have let me see the potential at the time.

I saw this happen during one of my Redwall Survivor experiences. Another author and I were working in Google Docs together, and we could see what the other person was writing. During his turns, I watched as the words came, then disappeared, then came, and disappeared. Some of what he wrote was great and I saw so much great potential in what he wrote, then the words would vanish as he deleted them. I told him I wanted to disconnect his backspace key!

A lot of people are shocked by how much I can write during NaNoWriMo and how fast I can go. They can’t fathom it.

But it’s so simple! Don’t censor yourself. Don’t backspace. Don’t go back and change what you’ve written. Just write. Just write.

If you think the scene you’re writing is garbage, let it be garbage. Put a note in brackets that says, [I hate this and it will go away later!] and then keep going. If you hit a spot where you think you need to research something, make a bracket and title it something like [Research – how many angels can fit on the head of a pin] and keep going. Just make something up in that place and promise yourself you’ll come back to it later.

There are so many different techniques to writing and different ways to do it, but I would say that the single best way to write a rough draft is just to write it.

As we in the NaNoWriMo circles like to say, “Revision is for December.”

If you can live by that rule, that you won’t touch your rough draft until after you’ve written “The End,” you will be able to write faster rough drafts.

And sometimes even better ones.

Day 24 – NaNoWriMo 2018


Oh, hello, 12th NaNoWriMo win in a row!

Yep, another successful NaNo win, though the story is not complete yet. I’m actually afraid that Against the Crown is not even half done. Haven’t decided yet whether it’s going to be a beast, or a series.

Regardless, I’m going to keep writing until I reach a point to write “The End” and hopefully I’ll hit that before the end of November. My track record with finishing stories after NaNoWriMo is not great, so I need to keep the momentum going so this doesn’t join The Island Wars, Maiden of the Wood, and The Tinctists in the “Finish These” pile.

I had a few slow days after hitting 50,000. The Thanksgiving holiday and some desire to just sleep in rather than wake up at 4:30 AM to write caught up with me, though I did make myself sit down and write every day, even if it was for one minute before dropping exhausted into bed. Back in the saddle today!

Word Count by Day
November 15 – 1841
November 16 – 1934
November 17 – 2759
November 18 – 2158
November 19 – 4012
November 20 – 2901
November 21 – 1346
November 22 – 43
November 23 – 420
November 24 – 2347 (So far)

Current Word Count: 53,590



Day 14 – NaNoWriMo 2018

The month is just flying past! We’re almost halfway through NaNoWriMo and I haven’t written an update!

I’ve already done my writing for the day. One of the habits I’ve developed to be successful at NaNo every year is that, when Daylight Savings hits, I do not snag that extra hour of sleep like most normal people. No, I reset my alarm, so that I’m still waking up at the same time my body is used to, but now it’s a hour before the rest of my family is up for the day.

This gives me an hour to write in the quiet of the morning before I have to tackle the rest of my tasks.

Yes, I’m crazy, but it also works really well for me, especially if I remember to get the coffee pot set up and on its timer, so that by the time I’m dressed and ready to start writing, there is a pot of coffee waiting for me. On a good morning, if I can avoid distractions, I can get about 2000 words written before the hour is up.

This morning I got 1942, so I’m calling that a good day’s work and I’ll take the rest of the day off.

I am about five days ahead of the NaNoWriMo schedule, after all, with my current word count at 33,829. According to my Stats page on the NaNo website, I’m averaging around 2400 words a day, which I think may be an all time high for me.

My story has been chugging along quite nicely so far, though I’m afraid I have far too many “Frankenscenes” (a term Holly Lisle uses in her How to Revise a Novel class) that are going to be nasty to revise. I had a lot of my plot cards that, when I sat down to write those scenes, realized that what I wanted to get to was further away than I though. One scene in particular was a monster.

Bron listens to the Great Sage Hazeton speak about the Great King and chooses to accept Hazeton’s gift and to follow the Law and the Precepts.

After 7,516 words, I finally finished that scene. It was a beast of a scene, but there’s a lot of good information in there that I think, with some cleaning, will turn out very nice.

I’m starting to get into the interesting part of my novel, where the choices my characters have made are going to start having much bigger impact on the world around them. There are scenes coming up that I’m really getting excited to write and time will tell how long this book will be. My scenes are already running massively longer than my approximate estimation of 1000 – 1500 words. At this rate, Against the Crown going to beat out my 2015 novel, Noontide Green, which was 70,000 words at completion.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how’s your writing going? Are you ahead of the game, right on track, or behind the recommended daily word count?

Word Count by Day
November 1 – 2019
November 2 – 2061
November 3 – 2614
November 4 – 2775
November 5 – 3179
November 6 – 3328
November 7 – 1801
November 8 – 1387
November 9 – 2014
November 10 – 2100
November 11 – 1786
November 12 – 3379
November 13 – 3444
November 14 – 1942


NaNoWriMo 2018 – Day 1

And wham!

Just like that, it’s November.

Of course, November means National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as we like to call it. For me, it’s another year of literary insanity as I pound out at least 50,000 words over the next 30 days.

I adore NaNoWriMo and while I’ve had interesting years, I’ve always managed to come out at the finish line with at least 50,000 words. I’ve got a few stories that have yet to find their “The Ends” but most of the time I finish the story and stick it in my nice little file of rough drafts.

Here’s hoping for another win under my belt.

I’ve added a tracker to the sidebar of my blog, so if you want to keep track of my words per day, you’re welcome to do so.

I’m theoretically done writing for the day. One of my personal goals over the years has been 2000 words per day, which gives me a nice little buffer in case something unexpected happens (as it often does). I’m at 2019 currently, and a scene and a half done.

This year’s NaNo is another prequel project in my Sentinels world, but this time I’m going a good 400 years into the past and looking into the founding of Mysera, and what happened to bring that about. I’ve had the information rattling around in my skull for a while and I’m looking forward to delving into the history of my world just a little more.

I’ve tackled this project at a different angle than recent years. I’m part of Holly Lisle’s How To Write A Novel class and I was able to complete the first 4 lessons before November hit. I crafted my artifact in lesson one, and learned a great deal about my world that I didn’t already know, and worked on some tones and pieces of me in Lesson 2. Lesson 3 developed 3 main characters, two protagonists and an antagonist, and then Lesson 4 got me into developing story arcs for those 3 characters.

From there, I switched gears (because I ran out of lessons and won’t get Lesson 5 until tomorrow) and went back to Create a Plot Clinic and used my trusty plot cards to begin putting my story in a shape I could follow. I will have to go back to How To Write A Novel after NaNoWriMo and go through her whole process at a later date, but for now, coming at my novel in this different manner really got me some good details and I built a ton more than I thought possible. I ended up with a huge portion of the plot that I didn’t expect, and I’m hoping I can keep it all to one book and not have this story spill into 2 books. 😀

Might just be one massive book, so we’ll see what the month holds.

Who else is participating in NaNoWriMo this month? Do you foresee smooth sailing or rough waters ahead?

Can’t Never Could

My oldest daughter went back to school the first week of September. My twins turned 4 and are at home with me for one more year.

With the new school year comes new routines and new schedules. With the new schedule suddenly came a shift in how my time was spent. During the summer, I was consistently running 3 times a week first thing in the morning. I usually ran just before the sun came up, when there was enough light to see by and be seen by passing vehicles. I arrived back home before my husband headed off to work for the day.

Then school started and suddenly my prime running time was being spent getting my daughter ready for school, then loading up her and her sisters to drive to the school to drop her off. Plus thanks to the tilt in the Earth, the daylight has been coming later and later.

For the last two weeks, I’ve run once. I couldn’t find time to run safely around the new schedule. Our budget does not allow a gym membership with babysitting this month. I don’t have an expensive double jogging stroller to plop the twins into so I could take them with me.

Then this morning, I sent my girls (plus their friend who joins us on Thursdays) outside to run off some energy. As I watched them play, I suddenly had a facepalm moment.

I’d started running back in May before school was out.

I’d started by running laps around my 1 acre yard while the girls played.

I wasn’t dressed for exercise today, but I had my good shoes on, so while the girls played, I walked 2 miles around and around and around. It’s at least more entertaining than a treadmill at a gym. Next time, I’ll get the right clothes on before the girls go outside and I can run.

But walking was a good start.

So often we come up with reasons for why we can’t do something. We can’t find time. We can’t afford it. We don’t have the right people to support us.

I don’t have time to write as much as I want.

What about spending 10 minutes writing rather than browsing Facebook? What about waking up half an hour earlier and writing for 30 minutes before the rest of the family is up? Why not write in the evenings after the kid goes to bed instead of watching another show on Netflix?

Sure, the most ideal thing is to have a couple of hours where I can work uninterrupted. But does little progress somehow have less value than big?

I can’t run with my family’s current schedule.

What about walking laps around the yard while the kids play outside and soak up some sunshine? What about using that kettlebell that’s gathering dust in the bedroom? What about doing strength exercises like sit ups, push ups, burpees, squats, lunges, planks, etc., that don’t require more than a cleared space of floor?

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the excuses. But power comes from looking at ways you can, rather than focusing on the ways you can’t.