Category Archives: Script Frenzy

Camp NaNoWriMo starts in 4 days!!

write fast

As I’ve written here before, I am a NaNoWriMo addict. Well, not an addict in the bad sense. It’s just that the challenge is perfectly suited for the way my brain works. I’m a project person. My philosophy on all projects is, “Go big or go home.” Clean the house? Bah! Amateur! I will rearrange the furniture, switch rooms around, rehang the pictures, and paint the walls. Plant some flowers? Too easy. I need to build two eight foot long raised beds and plant my crops for the summer. Sad but true. (Sad, because usually the small things don’t get done until they’re big things that interest me.

Last April, the Office of Letters and Light (the parent organization of NaNoWriMo), held its last Script Frenzy. That was really sad, because it was my first time doing it, and I had a blast. I came out with a darn good script, too, called Laid Waste, a dystopian drama. Anyway, because they didn’t have enough people, they’ve moved one of the Camp NaNoWriMo weeks to April, and allowed scripts as part of the official challenge. (Previously scripts were considered rebelling, except during Script Frenzy.) The other Camp NaNo will be in July. This all works great for me, since my daughter is getting married in June, and I have two graduating kids in May.

Anyway, I’m not writing a script, I’m writing book 3 of the IXEOS Trilogy, Darian’s War. You’d think that, perhaps, I’d have done a little preparation for this endeavor. But no… We are also trying to get our house on the market, I’m in the final stages of editing book 2 of the trilogy, IXEOS: Rebellion, and I’m writing a non-fiction book. And we’re going on a vacation over Easter. Yeah. Those special words you just thought are running through my brain all the time, right about now!


The real question is, are YOU ready for Camp NaNo? One great feature this time around is that you can set your word count goal anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000, so you don’t have to get 50,000 to win. The Camps, I think, have fewer winners than the November “main event,” so I think this is a great idea. My daughter entered because she could set her goal at 10,000. This is about all she can manage, with graduation in May and her wedding in June.

If you aren’t ready, I hope you are a pantser (someone who writes their novel by the seat of their pants), but if you’re a plotter, or a plotting pantser like me, you still have time. I planned my whole first NaNoWriMo book in a week, per Chris Baty’s “No Plot? No Problem” book, not realizing that things had changed and you could plan sooner. I have no advice for you pantsers, since you’re just waiting for 12:01am on April 1 to get going. But I do have some hints for the plotters who haven’t yet started.

Index cards, notebooks and/or Stickie notes. If you are a plotter or a plotting pantser, you will need to have some things written down to guide you through the month. I use a notebook, and write all my research and ideas fairly willy-nilly as I go. Because I am only coming up with a general outline, the beginning, the end, and some major plot points, my main note-taking is on my research into any historical or geographical facts I need to get started. (I do continuous research during the writing, too, so don’t feel like you have to have ALL your research done before April 1.) If I’m working on a new book, meaning one that’s not in a series, I use really big Stickie notes (about 6×8″). I write each character on a Stickie, with general information (ie physical description, job, location). I use these big notes because I stick them on my closet door. Using the giant ones means I can see the notes from where I’m sitting, and I don’t have to search for my scribbles anywhere else.

If you’re a real outliner, try to transfer your notes to a Word document or to Scrivener. Scrivener has a great cork board view, where you can organize virtual index cards just like on your wall, without the holes or ruined paint. If you don’t have your entire book outlined before 4/1, don’t panic. Get what you know down, and work on the rest when you’re done writing each day. You don’t have to know each chapter to start the first one. Baby steps…

Limit your forum time. I know, you get a lot of encouragement from the NaNo forums and cabins. But I also know that they’re a time sucker! I don’t use the forums much at all during the month I’m writing, but I tend to lurk around before and after. If you’re ready to go, that’s fine. Make some friends, have some laughs, get some good recipes. If you’re not ready, steer clear. You’ll start out with a virtuous search for help, and end up joining a tea exchange. Nothing wrong with a tea exchange – I did one in November. But that’s not where you need to spend your time right now!

Be realistic about research. I do a ton of research. Seriously. A ton. But don’t try to do it all prior to starting, even if you’re a plotter. For one thing, even with a great outline, you don’t always know what will come up. Maybe someone will speak in Swahili, and you didn’t see it coming. In this day of the internet, you can do amazing things in just five minutes! You can

  • Pull up the Louvre on Google Earth and describe it down to the last brick.
  • Find a full list of Korean or Italian or Scottish surnames.
  • Look at a star map and find out exactly what constellations are visible where and when.
  • Study a map of the London Tube and figure out which stops your characters would get on and off.
  • Learn how an EMP works.

Research stresses a lot of people out. I research things that I worry about, like smuggling weapons and how to make a WMD. I just use a search aggregator so that (hopefully) Homeland Security isn’t going to show up at my door. While the NaNo forum has a great thread asking about all these questions and more, it’s a lot faster to just keep some research windows open and do it yourself. It doesn’t make you a bad writer if you’re doing research in the middle!

Plan your month and daily word counts. I’ve written about figuring out word counts before here, but here’s the short version. There are 30 days in April. Theoretically, you write 1667 words a day for 30 days and you have 50,000 words and a winner’s badge. But Easter break is this month. Tax day is this month. My birthday is this month (if you are looking for things to celebrate!). Maybe you’re going to a wedding, or throwing a party, or, like me, putting your house on the market. In short, in a perfect world, you have 30 days, but in real life, you may have 27. That’s okay! Don’t worry about it!

Here’s why. Take a deep breath. Look at your calendar and determine the realistic number of days you’ll write. I know that I can’t write every day. My brain needs a break. I also know that I will be traveling April 1-3. One day is a lot of air travel, so I’ll count that day in. But April 1 is probably a definite no, and the 2nd is 50-50. We’re having a moving/yard sale on April 6. So that’s probably 25 days of writing for me (the 3 days with something going on, and 2 for mental health). If my goal is 50,000, I divide that by 25 instead of 30, and I get 2000 words a day. That would be my goal. (Since my personal goal is to finish the novel, which will be about 85,000 words, my actual goal is 3400.)

Now, figure out a way to keep track of your goal. I have a Stickie note app on my desktop, and I keep a tally every day. Here’s what that looks like:


June 1    3266        GOAL 3,000         3266
June 2    6935        GOAL 6,266         3669
June 3    10,723    GOAL 10,000       3788
June 4    14,070    GOAL 13,723       3347
June 5    17,715    GOAL 17,070       3530
June 6    20,830    GOAL 20,715       3115
June 7    24,066    GOAL  23, 715     3236
June 8    27,223    GOAL  27,066      3157
June 9    28,062    GOAL  30,223        839  (-2161)
June 10  32,432    GOAL  31,062      4370
June 11  37,494    GOAL  37,432      5062
June 12  42,517    GOAL 42,494       5023
June 13  45,535   GOAL  45,517       3018
June 14  50,049   GOAL 50,000        4514
June 15  OFF
June 16  53,335   GOAL  53,049       3286
June 17  57,104   GOAL  56,335       3769
June 18  60,551   GOAL 60,104        3447
June 19  64,039   GOAL  63,551       3488
June 20  67,143   GOAL  67,039       3104
June 21  OFF
June 22   70,349  GOAL 70,143       3206
June 23   72,446  GOAL 73,349      deficit -903
June 24   75,608  GOAL 75,500      3160
June 25   80,026  GOAL  78,608     4418
June 26   85,846  GOAL  83,026     5820
June 27   88,370  DONE!!!!    GOAL 88,846

The numbers in the second column are my actual word counts after writing for the day. The goal is the previous day’s total word count plus that day’s goal. The final number is how many words I wrote for that day. Notice that, even though I didn’t meet my goal on two of the days, I did not add that deficit plus my next day’s goal. I just added the next day’s goal. If you look through, you can see that, most days, I more than met my 3,000 words a day goal, meaning I had “words in the bank.” Some days just don’t go as you want them to… Don’t set yourself up to fail by making the next day miserable. Just pick up where you left off.

Prepare your family or roommates. Especially if this is your first NaNo event, prepare the people in your house, and any others who may be effected by your focus on writing during the month. Prepare menus if that will help you keep up with things. My first NaNo, our meals were the most organized they’ve ever been! Let people know it’s not just the time writing, but time thinking. Be prepared for your brain to be more tired than usual at the end of the day. Creativity is exhausting, especially if you’re not used to writing daily. If you get resistance, put your foot down. It’s one month… Everyone can manage!

Don’t edit. Decide right now that you aren’t going to edit as you write. For many of you, that is tantamount to cutting off your pinky toe, I know. But do it anyway. If you can manage it through one book, you’ll never go back to the write-edit-write-edit loop that keeps so many people stuck in my-novel-will-never-be-finished land. This is your first draft. Read that again. It’s your FIRST DRAFT. It’s supposed to suck! It would practically be sacrilege if it didn’t suck! That’s okay! If you forget something that should be in Chapter 2, don’t go back. Write it right where you are, and make a note to move it when you’re done. I’m totally serious. Why? Because if you go back to Chapter 2, you’ll start reading to see where to put it. Then you’ll find problems and start editing. Before you know it, you’ve spent two hours editing Chapters 2 and 3 and written exactly zero. Don’t start! You can fix it all later – the words aren’t going anywhere. (Speaking of that, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE save and back up your work daily! NaNo is rife with stories of people whose computer ate their work…)

Just do it! Nike has it right. Sometimes, despite setbacks and against all odds, you just have to do it. Bribe yourself, bully yourself, get a buddy, chain yourself to your desk… If you have decided you’re going to do it, then you owe it to yourself to try your best. Yes, things happens. People get sick, life gets in the way. That’s okay. If you can say, at the end of the month, that you did all you could do to win, then that’s the important thing. I happen to believe you actually can win, unless we’re talking major natural disaster or personal catastrophe… You can do it!

If you’re participating, let me know! I’m jswwrites in the forums, although I won’t be there too much. I’d love to know how it goes, and answer any questions if I can. Good luck!


DISCLAIMER: I am a 5 time NaNo participant and winner, but I don’t represent NaNoWriMo in any capacity other than as an enthusiast!


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, Writing

Writing a trilogy

IXEOS 800 Cover reveal and Promotional

I’m (finally) coming to the end of the first draft of IXEOS: Rebellion, book 2 in the IXEOS trilogy. I had an “AHA!” moment this morning… You know how the middle of a book is the doldrums, and it can be challenging to stay on track? Well, the middle book of three is the same! There’s so much happening, and yet it’s not going to be the end of the story, so I have to figure out how to tie up most of what’s actively going on, leave some cliffhanger but not enough to make my daughter send me text messages all in caps when she beta reads it, and still have excitement.

Huh. Good luck with that!

I crossed 70,000 words yesterday, so I’m assuming I’ve got about 10-15,000 to wrap this one up. Writing this book is ending up like my experience with The Hoard of the Doges, which took me too long to finish. Sometimes life happens, and you have to roll with it, but it’s hard for me to write in spurts like I’ve been doing since early December. I do much better writing it all really fast, as I can keep and grow the story in my mind that way. When I have days or even weeks between writing, I have to go back, reread what I’ve written, refresh my memory, take notes… In the end, it didn’t hurt the final product of The Hoard of the Doges (and hopefully won’t with Rebellion) but I did have to do a lot more revisions and rewrites than usual. I expect the same to happen here.

The other thing about this trilogy is that it’s huge in scope. To review, I’ve got about 300 teens (about a dozen active characters) who are from our Earth but were lured to an alternate Earth called Ixeos. On Ixeos they can travel most of the world through portals in the tunnels of Paris. That has given me unlimited locations, which has been great… but it also means there are scenes and stories in all those locations. And that’s important to the plot, but it’s a lot of threads to weave into a cohesive tapestry. Then, in case that wasn’t enough, we have rebels on the ground, who are humans from Ixeos. There are rebel cells (and gangs, and junkies) in every city, and a few of those are important secondary characters. Oh, and then the Firsts, the humanoid aliens who have taken the planet by force, used EMPs and WMDs, and enslaved hundreds of thousands of humans. None of these are main characters, but the whole race is out there causing trouble. Oops, forgot the slaves. They’re there, too.

Basically, I have an entire planet, and about a half-million humans and a couple hundred thousand aliens to deal with. Do the words “it’s complicated” start coming to mind? Now, obviously I’m following a few plot lines characters, and hopefully it all comes together as a cohesive story. But keeping it all straight — who was where, physical descriptions, personalities, ages, languages, logistics… It’s more challenging than anything I’ve written before, even the heavily historical treasure hunts.

All that said, I’m having a blast! I really like writing dystopian stories. (I did a dystopian screenplay last year that I love.) I’ve never written sci-fi fantasy before, so I’m learning about a lot of things and enjoying having a little leeway on reality. It’s low fantasy, so we’re not talking magic, but still, it’s fun to bend the boundaries every once in a while.

I’ll be writing book 3 in April during Camp NaNo. I’ll be sad for it to end, I think. Unlike with the Quinn books, which theoretically can go on forever, when this one’s over I’m not sure there will be anything left to write about Ixeos and the outsiders. After over 300,000 words, that will be sad. Hopefully the readers will be sad, too, because it will mean that they were invested in the world. Really, that’s all we want as writers, isn’t it? To entertain and let our readers suspend reality for just a little while.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing

Busy busy busy all the time…

The recent 106 degree temperatures were a dead giveaway that it’s summer, and, as a 12 year homeschooling veteran, I take summer seriously. I am as ready for summer as my kids have always been, and we take a long one – this year my son (my only remaining child at home!) was done around April 26, and will not be back in full swing until after Labor Day. And yet, it’s already July 24! How did this happen??

In April I wrote a screenplay for Script Frenzy, and edited it, before the end of the month.

In May, we were in Uganda for 3 weeks (go here to see why), and while we were there I did a ton of Civil War research, which included reading actual diaries of young women from both the Confederate and Union sides. I researched battles, the way the military was set up, how they came to war… (Here’s my secret feeling on research: when I’m in the middle of writing and I do it, I think it’s pretty fun. When I am doing nothing but research, it makes me want to take a nap.)

In June I did Camp NaNo and wrote the Civil War romance, on which I am now doing the final edit before sending to the agent who suggested it. That was 88,370 words.

In July, I finished the sequel to Solomon’s Throne, called The Hoard of the Doges (about 84k words). I did a quick first edit on that yesterday. (Editing cramps my eyeballs…)

In July, my first novel, Solomon’s Throne, was published as well, and that involved a lot of work with Streetlight Graphics, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, VistaPrint (I had postcards made), and OvernightPrints (bookmarks). Initial response has been great, and I’m hoping the people who bought the books last week and over the weekend will start getting reviews up soon.

August 1 I will start August Camp NaNo, and I’ve been noodling through that storyline over the last week or so. As I’ve posted before, it will be a YA dystopian fantasy thing… I will also start work with Streetlight Graphics the week of August 27 to publish The Hoard of the Doges.

Additionally, my son will start a couple of co-op classes that week, will have his 16th birthday during the month, and is in full swing with football. And my daughter will go back to college for her senior year. And my husband is publishing his first book. And I might have laser eye surgery.

September… I think I’ll rest!


Filed under Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing

It’s a snowball!

Objects at rest stay at rest. Objects in motion stay in motion. This seems to be what’s happening with my writing/publishing activities at the moment. For a long time in my life I was “at rest.” Not in a bad way – it was a necessary season. I was raising and homeschooling kids, my husband and I were growing and running a business, and those things took all my time and creativity. And that was OK… That was the season.

Back in 2008, I took a workshop on creativity, and that’s what primed the pump. I’d like to say that it was a “BAM” moment, but it wasn’t. I slowly rediscovered painting, and found out that watercolor painting wouldn’t kill me (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that…). Then in March of 2011 I bought Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem.” (Some of you know Chris as the founder and mastermind of NaNoWriMo, obviously an out-of-the-box thinker!)

When I bought that book I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, and since the book was written in the early years of it, had no idea how big an event it was from reading the book. But after I read it, the method appealed to me – 50,000 words in 30 days with no inner editor hanging around. My husband was working on ghost writing a book for someone at the time (political non-fiction) so we decided to do a NaNo-esque non-fiction challenge in May of 2011, reporting our word counts to each other and making fun rewards and incentives. We both “won” that challenge, and that was my first completed book.

By then I’d discovered NaNoWriMo online, and decided to sign up for November. (See why NaNo works for project-oriented people like me here.) I thought I was crazy, I thought I’d end up with 50,000 words of crap, but I thought, “what the hell?” I mean, how bad could it be? I could always burn it, I didn’t have to show it to anyone, and even the word validator at the end of November wouldn’t judge me, it would just count. And here is where the snowball started.

I’d never thought of myself (well, not since childhood) as a particularly creative person. I’d tried to think of novel ideas before, and always hit a wall. So in October, I had two thoughts, both adventure treasure hunt type things: a YA set in Beaufort, NC, using the legend of Blackbeard, etc; and an around-the-world adult thing. The latter definitely excited me more, but I was clueless about basically the whole thing – who, why, what, where, how. Pretty much I had no idea whatsoever.

And HERE is where I found my own process. And it’s not what I’d been taught (it’s not even what I had taught kids in creative writing classes!) although I’m sure the traditional way of coming up with plots or characters first works for a lot of people. Some cool story or plot idea that sparks a little flame, and then you fill in the blanks. Here’s what I knew from past experience – that absolutely doesn’t work for me. I peter out in less than 3000 words, with nowhere to go.

But as I was reading through World History for Dummies (true story), what DID appeal to me, what DID get that spark going, was places. Cool places I’d never heard of. I made a list and started to research the history of those places. That led me to make a list of interesting locations. Then I determined what would link those locations together (the Portuguese Spice Route, as it turned out). Then I tried to figure out why a person in the 1680s would travel this route, and came up with a Jesuit. Then I tried to figure out what kind of modern day people (non-governmental) would have the funds and the information and the desire to search for a treasure along that route (an international art leasing company). THEN I started sketching out people, and came up with the identity of the treasure (the throne of King Solomon, which did, indeed disappear). For most people, this is totally backwards, but for me, it made everything hum in my brain.

So, long story short, I wrote 88,651 in my first NaNo in November, 2011. When I finished my editing, I had about 93k words. It was a huge hit with the beta readers. And it will come out as my first indie book around August 1, 2012. (How exciting is that?!)

The snowball picked up steam, and I wrote 67k words of a sequel to Solomon’s Throne in Feb/March, putting it aside to write a dystopian drama screenplay for ScriptFrenzy in April (written in 16 days, it’s also gotten great reviews). I was in Uganda most of May, came home, did some quick research on the Civil War, and wrote a Christian historical romance for June Camp NaNo, ending with 88, 370 words. This one has gotten the best reviews yet, and I will be starting to edit that around the 23rd of this month.

I’m finishing the WIP I stopped for ScriptFrenzy, called The Hoard of the Doges, and should be done in 5-7 days. It is slated for publication around September 1, 2012. I will be editing that one while I am writing my August Camp NaNo book, a YA fantasy dystopian drama. I’ve gotten that one mostly plotted out over the last few days between the 3 hr drive to the beach and some walking along the waves. After that, I’ll probably take a writing break (OK, I say that… but maybe not!) until November and the “real” NaNoWriMo, at which time I will do either a mystery I’ve had on the back burner awhile, or another Christian historical romance.

See what I mean about the snowball? I do realize that I write really fast, and I write really clean first drafts, which helps get them out to beta readers, get feedback, and then a word-by-word edit done in about 2 months start to finish. (Who am I to complain?? That means I can easily write 4-5 books a year!) And there’s no sign that my brain (or fingers) are slowing down. If anything, I’m having more ideas the more I do.

All of this is to say that, at whatever speed your snowball travels, the snowball effect of success can work for you. The secret to writing?

WRITE. Seriously. You aren’t a writer until you write. Thinking about it doesn’t count.

SET GOALS. Achievable ones, not impossible ones. Don’t say you’ll write 3,000 words a day if the most you’ve ever written was 1,000. That’s not doable, and you’ll get discouraged and quit. For me, the monthly goal is always to finish the book or screenplay in that month. For commercial fiction novels, that’s in the 80-100,000 word range. For romance, the same. For the YA in August, that can be more in the 50-60,000 word range. A screenplay is about 120 pages (Laid Waste is 130, at the very edge of acceptable in film making land), which is only about 10-15,000 words. So those are my goals, and how I set them.

KEEP TRACK. In business, the saying is “you’re only good at what you track.” The same is true of writing. I have a Stickie Note app on my desktop, and each project has a note. Each day I write the date, then my goal (I just add X amount of words to yesterday’s goal, so for a 90,000 word book, I add 3,000). After I’m done writing, I write my actual word count based on Scrivener’s total (or, for a screenplay, the number of pages), then I put the day’s total, positive or negative. I don’t make up any deficits the next day, I just add the goal again. Most days I write over the goal, whether just 100 words or a couple of thousand. So there’s no need to make up a deficit or a day off. It all averages out (more than averages, actually – I’ve always finished early).

TAKE TIME OFF. I know a lot of WriMos don’t take any days off in the month. Personally, I find I need at least one day off every about 6-7 days. Sometimes there’s something scheduled prior to starting – for instance, as the mom in my household, I don’t even pretend I’m going to write on Thanksgiving day. Sometimes stuff comes up or I just don’t feel like it. As long as I’m meeting my goals on a consistent basis (or exceeding, without many deficits), I don’t worry about it. I take the day, completely guilt free. Writing so much so fast, and staying creative, is tiring. Your brain needs time to regroup. I always come back refreshed and ready to write.

KISS YOUR INNER EDITOR GOODBYE. On the first draft, anyway. Don’t read anything you’ve written until you’re done. Period. Don’t go back and add a scene. If you realize you really need one to handle a plot point, put it in where you are, and make a note of where it goes. I literally only read the last paragraph or two I wrote to see where I left off before starting again. The payoff is, when I go back and read it for the quick-fix first edit, it’s like reading something written by someone else!

USE BETA READERS. It is invaluable to have a group of people who will read your work and comment. Because I write really clean first drafts (no idea why, it just happens that way), I do what I call a “quick-fix” edit, fixing typos, missing words, changed names, or other obvious mistakes. That’s it. I then ask a dozen or so people (or put it out on FB) if they can read it by a certain date, and do so only looking for the following things:

*Does the plot hang together?

*Are the characters believable?

*Is the dialogue natural?

That’s it. No grammar. No spelling. No typos. Nothing but that. The reason? I don’t want to spend a lot of time on a word-by-word edit (which catches the grammar, spelling and typos) until I know I don’t have to delete or severely edit/change anything. Because if I do, I don’t want to have spent a couple of hours editing, only to delete the whole section. I don’t have that much extra time!

Please note that some people simply can’t bear to do this. No matter how many times you ask them not to, they will point out every grammatical error (even when it’s purposeful within dialogue), typo, and spelling error in the whole manuscript. I have two suggestions – thank them sincerely for reading your work, then put the manuscript with all the red pen marks away in a big envelope and forget it; and don’t ask them again. This is, actually, not super helpful at the beta reader stage, and can get you bogged down in minute details when you should be focusing on the big picture. Later (if you want, or if grammar isn’t your strong suit) you can get it out. Later.

EDIT FOR POLISH. I can do this myself. I am a homeschool mom, was a class shy of being a double major with English, and have read literally thousands of books in my life. I am objective. I can edit my own stuff. My husband can’t. He doesn’t notice missing commas, or when words would work better transposed, and he disables spellcheck because he doesn’t like all those lines all over his document. When he writes articles, if there’s time before it has to be submitted, I edit for him. For his upcoming book, he’s hiring a professional editor. And that’s ok. He’s not good at it and doesn’t want to waste the time. So whatever works for you is fine – but please, don’t skip this step, whether you are self-publishing or querying for an agent/publisher. This is the word-by-word edit, and takes time, but it will make a HUGE difference in your finished work.

And that’s it! The snowball’s flying down the hill now! Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Just do it! But mostly – have some serious fun.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing

Writing Styles and NaNoWriMo

I am constantly surprised (ok, read “annoyed”) by the never ending slamming of the people who participate in NaNoWriMo by writers who, for some reason, feel the need to worry about how the process of writing gets done. Mainly, I don’t understand how it affects anyone else, but then again, I’m a pretty firmly established “live and let live” person. But mostly I think it dismisses the fact that different people have different personalities, different work flow, different writing styles, and that we aren’t all going to do it like Stephen King or James Patterson or anyone else. Not even you.

About ten years ago, as my husband was leaving for the day, I said, “Honey, I’m going to clean out the pantry today, so if you get home and it’s a total disaster, remember, it has to get worse before it gets better.” My intention was to remove everything from the pantry, clean it out, reorganize, throw away expired/stale stuff, maybe use some fancy Rubbermaid containers. But once I got everything out, I thought, “This is really a stupid pantry. The shelves are almost 3′ deep and stuff gets lost, and it could be so much better.” So I got a 3lb hammer and demolished the pantry. I went to Lowes and bought new shelving. I filled nail holes with spackle, painted, installed floor to ceiling 12″ shelving in a U shape that made much more sense, and then put everything back. In one day. Before my husband got home.

This is how my mind works. I am a project person. I loathe doing daily tasks. And I did mean to use that strong of a word. Loathe. I will go in and completely reorganize my office, just don’t ask me to clean it. Ditto my bedroom or any other room in the house. I’d rather go through all my clothes and resort, make a pile for Goodwill, and put up the winter stuff than fold or iron. I have a hard time remembering to take any vitamin or other medication that requires daily doses, for myself or my pets. It’s just how my mind works.

So when I first found out about NaNoWriMo, from reading Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem,” it wasn’t necessarily the freedom to make a mess that appealed to me (although I struggle with my inner editor as other writers do, and the “permission” to write an entire first draft without editing a single word was a huge thing for me). It was the format. 30 days. That’s it. Get in, get out. Do a project. Done.

The first thing I did was a nonfiction book in May 2011. My husband was working on one also, so we made it our own NaNoFoWriMo month, and reported word counts to each other and kept ourselves on track. It was eye opening – this format works for me. I type fast, think fast, and don’t write until I have a basic outline, so 30 days (or less) is plenty of time. I don’t work outside my home (we have a business and I started a non-profit, but I work from my house, and my last remaining homeschooled child is in the latter years of high school and very self-sufficient), and I can write 3000 words a day in about 2 hours (most days).

When I did the official NaNoWriMo in November, I crossed 50,000 words in 12 days. I finished the novel at 88,651 on the 25th, having taken a couple of days off in the meantime. I didn’t edit as I went, I just wrote. When I printed it out and did a quick edit, I added 3 scenes, and got up over 93,000 words. And it was kind of like reading something written by someone else – because I didn’t edit as I went, it was fresh to me, and, actually, good. I sent it to beta readers (and no, they weren’t relatives), and they loved it. My 3rd query got a request for a full manuscript, and while the agent didn’t think it was in her wheelhouse as far as genre, she asked me to write a novel in a different genre and send it to her. Here’s what she said: “I have to say I’m extremely torn; you are such a good writer, but the story isn’t something I believe is going to work [for me]… please keep me in mind for any other fiction you write. I’d like to keep my eye on you. :-)” In a future email she suggested the romance novel that I just finished in June.

So all that to say – for me (and other “project people” like me), 30 days is plenty of time to write a good novel. Does it need editing? Of course! (Don’t the first drafts that take a year or three?) But just because I write a full length novel (or screenplay) in less than a month doesn’t mean it’s inherently crap. Sure, a lot of NaNo novels are crap. And you know what? Their authors know it. The point of NaNo, contrary to popular belief, is NOT to write a piece of publishable fiction in 30 days. It’s “a global uproariously fun event”  to get people writing. That’s all. For a lot of people who do NaNo, it’s the only time of year they write. They don’t claim to be, nor want to be, “authors.” They just enjoy the community, the craziness, and the challenge.

And that’s what the critics seem to miss. It’s fun. Who cares if what you write is ever published… The fun is giving yourself permission to write absolute crap. To tell that inner editor to go jump in the lake. To experience the highs of figuring out a plot problem and the lows of not being able to. Encouraging others who want to give up and celebrating with those who are meeting their goals. It’s about a community of people who want to see their fellow WriMos succeed, even if all that means is 50,000 words of crap. Because that’s 50,000 more words than they had before.

As an introvert, I have often observed the phenomenon of extroverts who believe there’s something wrong with me (and other introverts). If we just got out more, if we just had more friends, if we just… (Introverts, on the other hand, don’t ever seem to tell extroverts that they should do less!) It seems to be the same with those who are so anti-NaNo. If we just took a year (or four) to write our novels, then they’d be good. If we just slooooowwwed down, we’d write masterpieces. Well, to be honest, if I had to take a year to write a novel, it would never get written. I can’t maintain motivation, my train of thought, or carve out that much time. So there would be 3 less novels and 1 less screenplay in the world if I had to do that, and I think that would be too bad.

You might not end up liking my novels. That’s ok. There’s a lot of published stuff out there, even stuff that’s supposed to be wonderful, that I don’t like. But you could not tell me that they’re badly written, or that the plots don’t hang together, or that my historical research is wrong, because whether or not you like them (subjective), objectively those things aren’t true. They are well written. The characters and dialogue are good. The plots hang together. My research is spot-on. And isn’t that the point of writing? To write a story that appeals to at least some people, and that you can be proud of? If I didn’t tell you I wrote them in 3 weeks, you wouldn’t know. And that’s the most telling truth of all.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing