NaNoWriMo 2017

I will not be doing NaNoWriMo this year. I know, strange to hear an author say that, but here are the five reasons why I won’t be joining in the “fun”.

 

  • I Already Wrote Three First Drafts This Year – Not quite the four per year of more established romance authors, but I feel like it’s still an accomplishment. Maybe not the book in a month of NaNoWriMo, but clearly I already have the motivation to produce.

 

  • I have Five Books That Need Revising – In addition to the three new first drafts I produced this year, I also have two other books in need of revision. I need to be focusing on that as much, if not more, than producing new content right now.
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Yeah, about like that.

 

  • Prep Book For Publishing – I am seriously considering the self-publishing route right now. I’ve been querying a completed book, and I haven’t found any agents interested. But this means I need to spend some of my writing time formatting the book and figuring out how to launch it rather than write.

 

  • I want My Family to NOT Hate Me – This is a big one. I have that full time day job, and November is one of my busiest times of the year. Even busier than year-end and tax season. Combine that with Thanksgiving, two amazing kids, and a wonderful spouse, and they just don’t need the crap. Seriously. Trying to churn out 1.7k words a day is hard. It’s daunting. And it requires a commitment from the whole family I’m not willing to ask.

 

  • Stress Kills Creativity –  For me, NaNoWriMo isn’t motivating, it’s stressful. That makes it even harder to be creative, especially in an already stressful time of my life.
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Me starting mid-October to April 16th

 

  • I Want Writing to Stay Fun – The reason I write is because I love to create character and worlds. I love to see good triumph and get my happily-ever-after. I’ve loved reading since I was a small kid, and I decided I wanted to write after reading some books with crappy endings. I wanted control. To see things resolved properly. No control issues here. Nope. None at all.
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Me reading a book. Yup.

The one thing I’ve learned is every writer is different. What works for me doesn’t work for them. So, if NaNoWriMo is something that helps a writer achieve their goals, great!

I simply haven’t found it helpful, and for things like work-life-family balance, I’ve found it detrimental. I’m much happier with my five-hundred words-a-day goal. A lot of days I get more, but most days I get at least the five-hundred. It works for me.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I’ll still be here, but I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

How about you? Do you find deadlines like NaNoWriMo beneficial? Do deadlines help motivate you? Or do you find the added stress actually makes it harder to achieve your goals?

Facing Rejection

I hear myself telling DD1 all the time that it doesn’t matter if she succeeds or fails, I’m proud of her for trying her hardest. For really putting in the effort. She sometimes believes me, and other times I get the annoyed preschooler look.

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I totally don’t deserve it.

But, I have to walk the walk now that I’ve written, edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote again, and finally polished Crowned Prince.

I decided I wanted to try getting an agent and go the traditional publishing route if possible. There are pros and cons to both indie publishing and traditional, but I at least wanted to try traditional. Partially for their experience, but mostly for their amazing editors.

I know, I know, but one is not in the budget for us right now. While I take my writing seriously, I also take paying for two kids in daycare seriously. Don’t know if it’s like this everywhere, but where I live, my daycare bill is about twice the cost of an average mortgage payment. So, yeah, not much else is in the budget right now.

If I’m going to find an agent, I need to either meet one at a conference or query one. As a mom with two small children who works full time already, finding time or money for a conference also isn’t in the budget. So that means querying.

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Not this kind of querying.

And being rejected A LOT.

I have a feeling your chances of getting in to Harvard are probably better. After all, they accept 5.2% of their applicants. But, if I want to get an agent, I have to query them.

This is like a lot of things in life.

  • Maybe you don’t like your job, but that means putting yourself out there to find a new one.
  • Maybe you’re single and want to meet someone.
  • Maybe you want to be an actor, but that means showing up for the auditions.

Everything is life is scarce. And the more you want it, the more of yourself you have to put out there to get it.

That means facing the very real risk of rejection. Of failure. Or not being good enough. Talented enough. Just not enough.

The platitude of at least you tried your hardest feels less genuine then, though, really, that’s when it matters most. Trying. Not giving up.

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Persistence in the face of rejection is especially hard when you put so much of yourself into something. Like a job. Or a relationship. Or writing a book. Because this feels like a personal rejection. And we’re a heard animal. It’s ingrained in us to be part of the pack as those that weren’t usually didn’t have a happy ending.

But, I must face failure. I have to try, as I tell my daughter she must.

So I started the process. Looking up agents, trying to see who they represent and what they sell to see if I’ll be a fit. I even queried a few.

And got my first rejection.

It hurt less than I thought it would. But it still hurt.

 

How about you? Ever put yourself out there for something? Maybe a new job? A relationship? A book query? How did it go? Did it go better than you thought? If it didn’t, was the rejection or failure as bad as you thought it’d be?

 

Kindness Matters. So Does Empathy.

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This is so amazingly true.  Everyone is experiencing life, and you may or may not know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

I try to remember this when I get cut-off in traffic. Maybe, just maybe, the person in front of me got a call from their daycare, and they’re rushing to get a sick child. Or they can’t afford to be late to work because they’ll lose their job, but their kids’ bus was late picking them up. Or they just learned their mother died and aren’t thinking straight.

It’s possible they’re just a jerk. Looking at you man in the red pickup truck that made a left turn in front of me and flipped me off. I almost didn’t stop in time, and pickup truck versus minivan isn’t a pretty sight for either of us. It took me the next half-hour to stop shaking.

But maybe, just maybe, there is something else going on.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. But it’s different when we do it, right?

Except, it’s not.

I was at FedEx the other night to pick-up a package, and a woman was there with two little kids. The boy was being especially difficult, and I could see she was trying really hard to keep them under control. Rather than glaring at her, I smiled at the kids, waved at the little girl, and told her my daughter loved My Little Ponies, too.

The girl was wearing a MLP shirt.

Completely eased the tension, and it cost me nothing. I was able to continue to ignore the boy as the girl talked all about ice skating and Pinkie Pie. The boy was still surly, but he was coming around for his mom and sister.

No idea what happened in any of their day, but I certainly didn’t need to make it worse even if I was getting frustrated with FedEx as it took them fifteen minutes to find my package. A smile and a nice word made everything more pleasant.

I’m not sure why we don’t practice it more. Why it’s so much “cooler” to come back with some snarky comment than it is to show kindness. Why we’ve equated kindness with weakness.

Kindness is not weakness.

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It actually took me some time to realize I was making this mistake, and I almost completely rewrote a character because she was kind.

Yeah, I know. I’m not immune to culture either.

Part of the reason why the hero fell in love with this character was her kindness, that inner light that refused to dim despite everything she’d been through.

I was going to change that because I mistakenly assumed that made her a weak character. It didn’t. It was part of who she was, and it made her no more weak than my smart-mouthed character in a separate book. Different, but not weak.

What do you think? Do you equate kindness with weakness? Do you try to see the other side, even if it is a jerk in a red pickup truck that almost killed you both? Perhaps you’ve known a jerk in a red pickup yourself?

Endings Suck

As humans, we aren’t really wired to cope with endings. For much of human history, food was scarce and predators a very real threat. We had to seize the moment. Eat whatever food was available. Fend off immediate threats.

Think about it. There are no “good” endings.

  • The end of a relationship, even if we’re the one that ended it.
  • The end of a candy bar
  • The end of a book
  • The end of life itself

While ending a book isn’t anywhere near as epic as the end of life itself, a reader has invested many precious hours of their life into what I’ve written.

They deserve a good ending. When they don’t get it, fans riot.

Remember Mass Effect? If you never played it, many of the fans of the game were angry at how the writers ended the trilogy. We’d invested ourselves in three full games, only to be cheated at the end.

I suspect they ended it the way they did to lure players into a MMO that they were planning.

Instead of launching that MMO, they ruined their brand, and many players, myself included, haven’t touched the game since.

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As an author, ending the story is as important as beginning it. Maybe more important.

If the writer kills off the characters to get that ending, don’t expect to see me investing my time in another one of their books. I don’t just expect happily-ever-after, I demand it. This is my escape. If I want sad, I have the Economist for that.

I’ve heard the excuses:

  • But it doesn’t give me the impact I want. I need a Romeo and Juliet ending.
  • I have a message, a happy ending doesn’t convey it
  • But some stories just don’t have a happy ending
  • I need a jump-off to my next novel (which is a fast way to make me angry. Give me a whole story, a complete story, and let the next book(s) stand on its own)

 

My response to these excuses:  Get more creative.  I want better. I want an ending worth the time I invested.

With these thoughts in mind, I started to edit the ending of my current novel. After a couple of hours, I knew the ending sucked. Not Mass Effect sucked, but it was still bad.

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My beta reader was right. It needed something more. Something epic. A man has to choose between right and wrong, and his choices dictate not only his life but that of a kingdom. This should grip the reader and make them anxious before resolving it.

I cut over 8,000 words. That’s 10% of my novel. And I started over to write a better ending. To write an ending that would make the reader do a fist pump. To write an ending worthy of the time the reader spent in my world.

Yeah, it’s hard to cut that many of my darlings. Again. But I hope it’ll be worth it in the end.

 

How about you? Do you prefer a happy ending? Do you demand it? Ever do a massive rewrite and watch a huge chunk of your story disappear behind the Delete key? Ever have to rewrite a whole ending?

 

 

The Joy of . . .

Editing. You knew I was going to say editing.

After working through my latest book, I now have three in various stages of editing. While I thought I was to the finish line with Knight of Valor, some feedback I received on point-of-view is going to require a massive rewrite. Not in my bag of tricks at the moment. I am too invested in these characters still. Maybe not good, but I have other choices.

So that leaves the story I just finished or Crowned Prince. I’ve learned I can’t edit well when I’m too close to the story, and I’ve really only gone through Crowned Prince three times.

Some of you may write a pretty awesome first draft. That would not be me.

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Yeah, kinda like this.

 

I’m somewhat amused by non-writer friends who think a revision requires some fine-tuning of spelling and punctuation. While that might have worked for their college term papers, I want so much more from my writing. After all, I can’t think of a single college term paper I’d have spent precious free-time reading.

Rewriting, as hard and messy and unpleasant as it can be, has a certain joy of its own. You get to watch your half formed lump of clay look a little more like David and a little less like that play-doh project your toddler made.

Crowned Prince is in decent shape, but I need a more epic ending according to my beta reader. I get it, and I agree with it. The ending did feel rather taped on after all the other events of the story. I sometimes fall down at the end in my early drafts, and I need to clean that up.

I also need to work through point-of-view issues. Easier for me to do in Crowned Prince for some reason. Fortunately, I got that advice before I started my third novel, so the POV in that will be easier as it was written to follow the “new rules”.

So there it is. My project over the next few weeks (months?). Last time I delved into editing, my daughter was diagnosed with some medical issues. I didn’t have it in me to give the editing the full attention it deserved. I did get through it, but not the way I should have.

So, time to start again. And let’s hope this time it goes a little better.

3

 

How about you? Does your first draft require a lot of editing? They say writing is rewriting. Have you found that to be true? Any tricks you use in your rewriting or editing process?

 

NaNoWriMo 2016

Yes, I am ignoring the fact that it’s Halloween. That I will most likely be spending the evening trudging through the brutal cold of the Great Lakes region at the end of October with a child dressed in a costume designed for Florida.

Instead, I’m focusing on this being the eve of NaNoWriMo 2016. This stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is the month were writers attempt to produce 50,000 new words in 30 days. That’s roughly 1,700 words a day.

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Many who will take part in the challenge have already begin plotting. Putting together their outlines, character sketches, and world maps to be ready for tomorrow. Some even clean the house, do laundry, and stash away frozen meals in preparation for being devoted to writing for the month.

I, however, have done none of those things. And not just because I have a spouse and two small children.

I will not be joining you this year.

I will be finishing up my last project which will equate to about 60,000 words in 6 weeks. Roughly 1.4k words a day versus the 1.7k NaNoWriMo wants. Might not be at the NaNoWriMo pace, but not too bad. And I kept my sanity.

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Instead, I will be making a concerted effort to rewrite and revise the three (yes three) novels I’ve completed and make them publication ready. My goal is to try to take these the traditional route through an agent and a publishing line like Avon.

I really want to join NaNoWriMo. I want to experience the camaraderie. The joy of making something new. But I also need to get this editing done. I need to have my books in a state where I can query them and try to get them out into the world.

What I really need is NaNoEdiMo National Novel Editing Month!

 

Character Analysis: Heroines 1.1

I am rescheduling my normal Monday book review to answer Mariah Avix‘s question: “What would have made you like these characters?”

That is fuel for thought and helps me better understand what I like to see in a character.

 

Stephanie Plum Series – I would’ve liked to see her become tougher, more bad*ss as the series progressed. I was on book four, and there had been absolutely no character growth. Part of the joy of a series is seeing the character grow into the challenges life has sent to them. Have her enroll in a fitness program. In a formal gun care and target practice program. Have her learn how to hide her family and friends from the bad guys. Let her become an amazing bounty hunter.

This changes who she is, and maybe she’s not entirely okay with it. But it’s part of her story. You have a series. Give her a character arc worthy of one.

 

Journey’s End – This is actually a really tough one as it basically forces a rewrite of the entire story. If it were me, I’d begin the story when she was already in the US rather than on the boat through Ellis Island.

I’d show her as a cold, ruthless woman that has done whatever it took to get to the top. All so she can tear down her grandfather. We’d see this through her actions. See her as a shadowy figure with a name that could be male or female so everyone would take her seriously. No one knows who she really is, but she is feared and respected. We see the wits and cunning she developed on the streets on London in her business dealings and take-no-prisoner behavior.

She has built this, done this, all so she can destroy the man that ruined her mother and left her to rot on the streets. He enjoyed wealth beyond imagine while she picked pockets to eat.

Let her be self-conscious of her low-brow accent and manners that she slips into even after years of trying to drill them out of herself.

Let us see that she fought for every scrap of knowledge she has. Yes, she can read, write, and is a numbers genius. But she fought for it. Every bit of it.

Give her a jaded eye on American upper crust society. People being foolish because a woman wore the same dress twice. Let her mock them ruthlessly. Let her be as cold and callous as someone from the streets would be over these “worries”.

As she is building up to finally being able to destroy her grandfather, to stepping from the shadows and revealing who she is as she takes him down, let her then and only then consider the price of revenge.

Is this who she wants to be? Is revenge worth the price to her, to the people who’ve come to depend on her? Will it cost her the man she loves? (Romance novel, remember?)

And if she does decide to put revenge on hold, make it cost her. She doesn’t get a happily-ever-after ending right away. She has to earn it.

After living her life for revenge, the sole driving force that got her through some of the darkest days of her life, she has to find a purpose and goal worthy to keep her going. Love will be part of it (this is a romance novel), but it has to be more. Perhaps jobs for those that were once in her straights. Perhaps education for the poor. Perhaps a crusader for workplace safety. Whatever.

You’re not going to convince me a woman like this will ever be happily simply as a top 1% wife.

 

Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine quite a bit, until she lost all of her personality and became the proverbial doormat in front of her mother.

I’d have liked to seen the heroine stand up to her mother, send the woman packing, whatever. But then the mother would’ve needed to be a more robust villain to continue to have a part after this. She’d have either needed something actual to use against the heroine, or she’d have needed to be far more scheming.

Perhaps the mother needed to arrange an “accident” for her daughter. Yes, murder is quite the villainy, but this author already had mustache twirling villains, so add it to the pile.

 

Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine until she started robbing coaches. Yup, she goes from petty theft to full-on armed robbery.

I think this was the author being in love with the idea of her heroine robbing stage coaches. Rather than earning this with an appropriate villain, back story and the rest, (think Robin Hood – you hate the Sheriff of Nottingham, and you’re fine with Robin Hood stealing given what the poor have been through), she just sort of tosses it in there.

Ruining both the heroine with the action, and the hero with how he responds to it.

She already had a perfectly good plot going on. She didn’t need to escalate to the nuclear option.

I’d have rather seen the conclusion of what happened after the hero figured out the heroine was the one stealing the bits and bobs at parties. Liked to have seen the author resolve that, have the hero force himself to learn why etc. Maybe respect her for it, and love her all the more for her compassion and ingenuity.

I mean, he had no actual proof he could bring before a magistrate (not that this appeared to matter later int he story w hen he knows she’s robbing coaches and still not doing anything about it). But he could’ve convinced himself he was looking for this proof as he learns more about her.

 

Study of Seduction – I have no idea how to reconcile a rape victim to her world and how to help her find happiness. So, I would’ve never had the heroine raped. There could just as easily be another reason that the gentleman who raped her had something bad happen to him.

Perhaps he attempted to take liberties, and that’s when her brother called him out. But then her brother wouldn’t have been banished, and that gets rid of the reason to have the hero with her. Of course, her brother could be otherwise indisposed all these years later, and the earl steps in for his friend. Wouldn’t take too much creativity to come up with something.

Or, perhaps something she inadvertently says or does gets him killed. whatever. Be creative, but make it something other than rape.

Than you can show me this effervescent, witty young woman who feels some guilt over the man’s death. That may have dimmed her a little, but it doesn’t become this huge and massive thing that ruins the rest of the story.

 

Deliver Me from Darkness – I hated this heroine  and hoped the author would find some interesting way to kill her by the end.

The heroine desperately needed to channel some Buffy. She needed to be as awesome as the author tells me she is. Maybe not at the beginning, but by the end? I want to see her staking vampires and holy-smiting demons. I want to see the rest of the Paladins staring at her in awe as she brings down the holy wrath of the One God.

This means no stupidity.

This means not tearing apart a guy’s apartment in a childish fit of rage and impotence. It means surveying your surroundings, figuring out what you can do to take him down. When he wakes up, she almost gets him. And this is the beginning.

When the rapey paladins try to mark her against her will? Let her tear the mark apart and leave the man that did it lying in agony on the floor. Let her tell them if any of them ever do it to her again, she will send them to the One God. Let her mean it, and let the threat be real. She is super powerful, after all.

It means no being dumb and going out after dark alone. Or if she does, let the demons that try hunt her learn just how much of her powers she’s come into. No being stupid and leaving her vampire bodyguard to go into the sunlight. Make the bad guys who want her earn it. Big losses as they throw wave after wave to take her down.

Better yet, don’t let them get her. Let her save herself and her vampire bodyguard.

If the author so desperately wants to make her a vampire rather than redeem the hero, this is the spot to do it. She saved them both, but she’s dying.

Given that this is a series about Paladins, I’d rather see him bite her to change her to a vampire and her blood redeem him. Once redeemed, he can now channel the One God to heal her.

 

Goblin King – I didn’t much care for the heroine in the beginning when she acted like a doormat to her controlling and abusive fiancee.

To get me to really like the heroine, the author needs to give me a better reason as to why she’s marrying the jerk. Maybe she was adrift after her father’s death and he offered the illusion of protection and love. An illusion shattered when she finds him with another woman. That could be the opening of the story.

Or maybe she’s marrying him because it’s who her father wanted her to marry him and she doesn’t want to disrespect him even in death.

Whatever. Just make it something that doesn’t make her look like an idiot. Also, make sure she graduated from law school. C’mon.

Give the heroine more in the solving her lover’s issue. Let her find the cure. Let some insight she has lead to the cure. The entire second half of the book is a lot of sitting around whining about their plight and doing nothing.

Make them do something, and give her an integral part in it. Then, let their actions resolve the curse.

How I Finished My First Rewrite

I finally finished my first rewrite of my second novel.

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Let the celebration commence!

 

I’d love to tell you I did it through sheer determination and laser focus. The truth is it had more to do with my bad habit of not being able to set aside a crummy book than any inner will power.

The book I’m reading is terrible. I don’t like the hero or the woman he thinks he wants to marry. The woman the author is setting him up to fall in love with started out fine, but now she’s annoying me. The plot is so sparse as to be non-existent, and a single two minute conversation which could’ve and should’ve been had would have solved all issues up to where I am in the story. Which is page 239 of 321.

But it did mean when I stopped writing and opened up my kindle app, I didn’t actually want to read what was there. And I am terrible about putting a book aside . . .

So, I focused on my revision.

After finishing the revision, I went back through a couple more times to smooth it as the revision was more like rewriting over half of what was there. I’m sure I have a lot more fixes coming, but at the moment, I want to wait and see if my beta readers find any glaring errors in the characters or plot.

I am considering setting aside the fantasy romance I’ve been writing and trying my hand at a Regency novel. I read them and enjoy them as I haven’t been able to find much in the fantasy romance genre but can always find Regency. As such, I’ve read a great many Regency novels of late even as I’ve been looking for more with knights, magic, and maybe an elf or three.