Put the Panic on a Slow Simmer…

So, I realized that NaNoWriMo is just a little more than a month away. Usually, I spend the month of October planning for my NaNo novel, except I’m still in Redwall Survivor and it would appear that the contest is going to spill into November.

So, um, my previous experiences with writing two different projects at the same time has not gone well… My brain has a hard time focusing on either project if I’m running more than one at a time.

So now I have to figure out if I’m going to do NaNoWriMo or not.

And what if I decided not to do NaNo, and then I end up voted out of the contest right before NaNo, and suddenly have the time but no plan!?

The horror!

To make matters worse, my Muse has been in Bermuda or something for the last month, and she and I haven’t been on very good speaking terms for most of the year anyway. Which means I have no ideas for NaNo. Don’t have many for my next post in Survivor, too, which is also making things interesting in that department.

October is going to be a very interesting month…

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Creating a Language — NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep

Right around the year 2000, I was in high school. Having attended a Christian school, one of my graduation requirements was to take a year of Greek, so that I would have the basic skills needed to go back to original Biblical documents and check the translations to know for myself that the words were translated accurately.

Outside of my schoolwork, I was involved in Redwall role playing on several different message boards. I had created my first attempt at an evil character, a black wolf assassin who called himself “The Dark One.” This character had so far refused to give any name to the other RPers, primarily because I couldn’t come up with a name that I really felt fit.

Each day I sat at a school computer and worked through my Greek lesson. Each lesson generally consisted of learning key root words in the Greek language, and then memorizing a Bible verse in Greek. (Fun Fact: I can still quote, in Greek, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”) One day, I came to the verse, “The wages of sin is death.” I don’t remember any of the verse, except for the last word.

The Greek word for death was “thanatos.”

It immediately struck me that it was perfect for my wolf character. What better name for an assassin than Death?

Thanatos became one of my favorite characters to role play and he received the necessary facelift to be transferred over to my Sentinels of Mysera series years later.

In Mysera, Thanatos is a Chazevo, a black-skinned race of semi-nomadic people who originally inhabited Mysera before the Myserans showed up. Chazevo were known and feared for their superb fighting skills.

For this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, I’m going prequel. I’m writing about the blacksmith Josin Romalle, who’s grandson Bronx features heavily in the Sentinels of Mysera books. Josin, I had determined, had spend some time living among the Chazevo, so this gave me a perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the language and culture of Thanatos’ people.

I pulled out Holly Lisle’s Create a Language Clinic when I reached a point in my brainstorming that I needed some names. Her first techniques in the clinic give you a  way to come up with names that fit in the framework  of the language. I decided immediately that the suffix -tos would be a common name ending among Chazevo men, fitting with Thanatos.


I tinkered around with various other things, forming root words and their noun and verb forms, as well as potential adjectives and adverbs. One of the words I worked on was ‘death’. After a bit of deliberation, I decided a root word for death/dead/die would be ‘thana’. I tacked on my noun and verb endings, so death is “thanato” and  die is “thanarin”. Since I’d previously established that a -tos suffix would indicate a proper name, Thanatos now could potentially translate as “a dead man” or maybe even “a man who brings death.” Both fit with backstory for the character and why he chose that name (Thanatos not being his birth name, of course).


It was a lot of fun to figure out a way to reverse engineer a way to make Thanatos still mean “death” but in a completely different way.

If you want guidelines for how to create your own working language in a book, I highly recommend Create a Language Clinic by Holly Lisle. You can find it in her shop at hollyswritingclasses.com.

End of NaNoWriMo Report

Wow! What a whirlwind the last month has been! I’ve successfully completed nine years of NaNoWriMo and have another rough draft now resting in my computer.

Nano winner 2015 screenshot2

Noontide Green is my longest NaNo to date, capping off at 70,435 words. Since I’ve never had a NaNo break 60,000 before, I’m pretty pleased with it. Of course, there will be a lot of work that needs done in the manuscript before it’s ready for anyone’s eyes but mine.

Which, of course, brings me to the next phase of writing. My favorite writing coach is in the process of revamping her writing classes and she’s going to be opening up her “How to Revise Your Novel” course for new students here in the next week or so. I’ve taken many of the smaller courses and clinics offered by Holly Lisle in the past and I’m excited to tackle my revisions on Battle of the Bargaws using HTRYN.

I highly recommend Holly’s Writing Classes to anyone who wants to improve their writing. Right now she’s offering a free revision mini-workshop on her site. If you’re not sure if Ms. Lisle’s methods will work for you, try the free workshop out!

NaNoWriMo Halftime Report

If you’ve visited my site any time in the last 15 days, you may have noticed a new word count tracker over there on the right sidebar. That’s my official word count for NaNoWriMo 2015 and I’m pleased to say it has been steadily growing.

NaNohalfway

At the start of the month, I set a goal of writing an average of 2000 words a day in order to give myself that much needed buffer that always seems to come in handy during some point in the month. So far, I am 5 days ahead of schedule, so the goal of a buffer is definitely complete. I have written every day, though Day 12 was only about 250 words because of an almost crippling headache, but I still managed a little something even in the midst of that.

For the first time in 9 years, I’m also not in danger of running out of plot. Currently, I have used 18 of my plot cards and have 24 remaining. I’m averaging about 1800 words per card, which makes it possible that the final draft for Noontide Green will be 75,000 words, which would make it my longest rough draft since the original draft of Sentinels of Mysera (which I think was a smidgen over 100,000 words). Most of my NaNo drafts tend to hit right around the 50,000 word mark (except for The Island Wars, which I haven’t finished…), so I’m pretty pleased with this month’s progress.

The best part is that I’ve reached the part of the story that I’m really excited to write. The best scenes are still to come, so I have a lot to look forward to over the rest of the month.

The downside to being so excited to work on my NaNo is that I still have an epilogue to write to finish off Vera Silvertooth’s story in Redwall Survivor. I’m having a hard time pulling my mind out of Noontide Green long enough to make any progress in that department. I may need to take a day or two off from NaNo to get that done, which is another good reason I have a buffer to my word count.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? Are you enjoying your story or is it fighting you every step of the way? Let me know in the comments.

Plot Cards — Writing Tools

I have always been a planner when it comes to writing. I like my plots in orderly little rows before I start writing. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t fly by the seat of my pants on occasion, but I like order. I like to know what the beginning is and what the end is and have a good idea of what happens in the middle.

For a long time, I did standard outlines like I was taught in school, with the letters and the numbers and at least 2 points in each subcategory, yadda yadda. I used the Hero’s Journey as my blueprint for my plots and everything worked fine.

As time passed, I heard different authors talk about writing their outlines out on index cards. Seemed crazy to me. What a messy way to outline! What happens if you drop your cards? Outline all over the place. Way too disorganized for my orderly brain, thank you very much!

Then I picked up Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Clinic. She talked about using the note cards for plotting out a story (and for using a similar technique for revision). Though skeptical, I gave it a try for one NaNoWriMo. I believe it was 2011, when I wrote The Insane Sorceress, since that’s the first stack of plot cards I could find. After Nano, I decided to take the plot card thing one step further and I wrote out every scene for the Sentinels of Mysera. Then… horror of horrors… I shuffled the cards… I laid them out on the table and started playing around with the order of my story. I let my imagination play with the “what-ifs” that came up with the random order of the cards.

Two cards randomly ended up next to each other. Two scenes that were originally in reverse order and very far apart in terms of the story. But when I looked at them… something clicked. I rearranged the story furiously and then stared at the completely new (but better) direction this took SoM.

I became a firm convert of plot cards for outlining. Every NaNo since then has been plot carded out. I’ve used the exercises from Create a Plot Clinic to give myself ideas and work out the kinks in the plot ahead of time. If you want to know more details about plot cards, I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s clinic, but I’ll give you a very basic rundown.

The plot cards have been very helpful in this year’s NaNo planning so far (which I have managed to squeak in between Redwall Survivor stuff). I had a lot of ideas for this year, but I wasn’t sure how to make them all mesh into something that made sense.

My cards all follow a similar format. I start with a title that sort of describes the scene (sometimes I get quite snarky). Beneath that goes the POV character for the scene (except for when I did Maiden of the Wood, which was all one POV, so there was no need for that). Then I do a sentence or two that describes the scene I have in mind. As you can see above, I changed a little bit after initially writing the card. At the very bottom, I occasionally write a snippet of dialogue that comes to mind, or notes that I want to make sure to remember for that particular scene.

I keep writing cards like this. Sometimes I’ll follow a plot thread for several cards, and sometimes I just write random scenes that don’t seem to have any place. Once I have a decent number of cards, I start playing with the order. Stuff gets shuffled around and rearranged. I play with the different orders that present themselves. Eventually, I get something that works. There are almost always holes in the plot at this point. Sometimes I fill them in before writing starts, and sometimes it happens in the middle of writing.

Once I have a good number of cards (which for NaNoWriMo tends to be between 30 and 50 to reach the 50,000 word mark) in an order I’m happy with, I ring them together.

 
As I go through writing, I flip through the cards and write the scene on that card. When the scene is done, I flip to the next one. On occasion, I come up with a new idea in the middle of writing. This happened last year with The Traitor of Mysera. I decided on a whole new direction partway through the month and pulled out several cards and slipped in new, hastily-written ones.

How about you? Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you use a traditional outline, plot cards, or something else?

NaNoWriMo — Writing Tools

Late in 2006, I stumbled across a link for something called “NaNoWriMo“. I don’t remember exactly how I found the link, but I clicked on it. It was early in November at this point and NaNoWriMo (which I’ll explain later) had already started. I found the concept interesting, but knew there was no way I could start something like that on such short notice. So I put in my information for a “Remind me next year!” email, and went about my life.

October 2007 hit and I got an email….

We got this email today from your imagination. It was misaddressed to us, so we’re sending it along to you. We hope it finds you well.
—–Original Message—–
Hello,
This is your imagination. I know work, school, and general craziness have been keeping us apart lately. But there’s something we need to do together this November.
It’s called National Novel Writing Month. For it, we’ll bash out a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in 30 days. You and me. Writing a book. Together.
I need you to sign us up. Because I don’t have any arms.
http://www.NaNoWriMo.org
Love,
Your imagination

Boy, did I debate about that email! 50,000 words? 30 days? It took me a 2 1/2 years to finish the first draft for Sentinels of Mysera. The 2nd book (which is now the 3rd book), Cavern of the Clan, wasn’t even finished yet, and I had been plugging away on that for over a year at least. I knew I would write the 3rd (now 4th) book of the Sentinels series if I did attempt NaNo, but I just didn’t know if I could do it.

If you want to read more about how that first NaNo went for me, you can view an almost daily breakdown on my old Livejournal page.

NaNoWriMo 2007 had it’s struggles, but in the end, I won. I completed the 50,000 word goal in 30 days. Actually, I wrote 50,311 words in 27 days. The euphoria from that was huge. After all the struggles from the previous few years with my writing, I’d done something I’d thought impossible.

And you know what?

Part of my NaNo profile page

Part of my NaNo profile page

See those little purple circles in the middle right of the screen. Purple means a win. I have won every year I attempted NaNo. I won while working in the school and delivering newspapers. I won while pregnant with my first child. I won when that child was an infant. I WON with 2 month old TWINS! I’ve overcome carpal tunnel, snowstorms, writer’s block, and dead computers.

Over the last 8 years, I have done NaNoWriMo. There have been years where what I wrote during NaNo was the ONLY thing I wrote all year. But I’ve done it. I will continue to do it, even when the doing seems impossible. I’ve learned through NaNoWriMo that I can make time for my writing, that I can set a writing goal and achieve it, and most importantly, it’s kept me writing even during the toughest of years. NaNoWriMo has taught me the value of butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, and just writing that first draft. No edits, no revisions. JUST WRITE!

Now, if you are a writer, or want to be a writer, I highly recommend NaNoWriMo. Log in, make a profile, and find your region. Seriously, find out if there are any other writers in your area! That is one of the best things about NaNoWriMo. There is a sense of community that many writers don’t have. I keep in touch with one of writers from my first NaNo. I’ve got a number of new friends that I’ve met simply by showing up at the coffee shop on the day of a Write-In. One of the cast members of Redwall Survivor is actually one of my NaNo buddies (through an ironic twist of fate).

I’ll be talking more about NaNoWriMo in the future, because November is coming. I’ve got an idea of what I’ll be writing and I’ll keep you posted here. If you do decided to jump in and join NaNo, look me up. My NaNo name is Juleneifier. I’m always willing to add buddies. Let me know you came to me from here.

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Have you done it? Did you win or did you chalk it up as a learning experience? Comment below and let me know!