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Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo’

nanowrimo 2013 in review

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

November went and flew by like a flying autumnal whoosh of a thing and I am sitting here looking at December somewhat skeptically. But I did have a just-barely successful NaNoWriMo, and I am impressed with myself considering how long it’s been since I’ve participated and how many days I had to skip entirely.

I stayed more on-pace than any other NaNo I’ve done before, mostly because I just didn’t have time to get my standard head start. I had lofty goals of maybe doing more than 50k but I ended up right on target. This is a screencap of my day-to-day handy chart from the NaNo site:

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 2.07.16 PM


I had planned at the outset to be all NaNo Rebel and work on two different projects but I didn’t really do it the way I intended. I spent the first half of the month working on a new thing and then thought about going back to the other novel-in-progress but decided to work on the new thing more instead.

I write out of order, which is good for me but not necessarily the tidiest way to approach a draft of something. So in the middle of all the bits and pieces I started some other pieces and I somehow ended up with about 15k worth of stuff that does not belong in this particular new thing. I think I accidentally wrote background mythology for an entirely different thing, but I don’t know what that different thing is yet. I like those bits, though, so I will keep them safe and fed and watered until I figure out what they want to be.

The rest of it is… not a novel. It’s not even a draft of a novel, it’s 35k of stuff that I might be able to polish into the beginning of something that could maybe someday be developed into a novel of some sort. It all needs a great deal of work. I haven’t re-read any of it yet but I’d guess that maybe half of it is useable. There are individual scenes and moments that I like a lot. I’m going to put it away and go back to the other novel and then when I have more time I’ll pull it back out and see what works and what doesn’t and figure out what I can play with further.¬†2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner

It was fun, overall, though I am out of practice and it was harder to get out of that self-critical headspace than it used to be, but at the same time I think I trust my instincts more. My favorite part was still there, too: the finding of things I wasn’t expecting, in that whirlwind of imagination exploration.

So, hurrah for NaNoWriMo, hurrah for those of you who participated and won, hurrah for those who participated at all no matter the result because you have more words than you might have otherwise, and hurrah for all the non-November words to come.


november is national novel writing month

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

I probably don’t have to tell you all that November is National Novel Writing Month.

And you probably already know that The Night Circus started life as a tangent in a NaNoWriMo novel and was then further developed through subsequent NaNo-ing. (It very likely played a part in the circus itself being autumnal, since I was always writing in November. Also, autumn is my favorite.)

But unless you follow me on Twitter you may not know that this year I’m participating again, for the first time since 2009.


I am cheating. Oh wait, no, I am a “NaNo Rebel” which is a nicer word for cheater. One is supposed to start fresh and write a new novel and I’m not doing that. I’m working on not one but two projects, my already started novel-in-progress and a secret new something. My goal is to get 50k of shiny new words written between the two of them before the end of the month.

This is the most I’ve been writing in bulk in awhile, for a number of reasons, and it’s weird to get back into it. I am already failing at one of my old standard NaNo practices of getting a head start. I would always try to bulk up my word count on day one or two so I’d have that extra buffer of comfy words but I’ve been staying more or less right on pace through this first week, I only managed to pull a teeny bit ahead of daily average today.

I’m mostly working on the new thing, to get my brain into non-editor, no self-criticizing, just-keep-writing NaNo mode and so far it seems to be working. I’ve come up with several bits that are not completely terrible in amongst the stuff that is completely terrible but led to the not so bad stuff. (And one particular thing which is so delightful that I am far too pleased with myself and pretty much assures that I will try to turn this into something salvageable someday if only for that one fantastic thing that should really live out in the world and not just in the demented part of my brain that it sprang from.)

Here’s the part of the post where I show off my little wordcount widget:

And here is where I link to NaNo-related things.

This is the official NaNoWriMo site.

This is my official NaNoWriMo Pep Talk. It includes my best advice and tips and a tangent about a taxidermied marmot.

This is a post I did with other links and informative NaNo-related things last year.

This is a quote from that post, regarding people inevitably saying and posting disparaging things about NaNoWriMo that I think deserves to be restated:

I cannot fathom disparaging anything that encourages storytelling.

Get into the nuances of the issues or problems with it all you want, and I will be first to say don’t dare start contacting literary agents on December 1st, but disparaging the entire endeavor makes me growly. Grr.

And this is an Instagram photo of me and NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty.


flax-golden tales have been pre-written and prescheduled for the month (the one from the first of the month is, of course, for all the NaNo-ers), in-between blog posts will likely be photo heavy or NaNo progress updates.

This is, by the way, the tenth anniversary of my very first NaNoWriMo. I failed that year. Didn’t fail the next year. I feel pretty good about this one so far, but it’s only the 7th. We shall see.

happy nanowrimo!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Happy November! November is National Novel Writing Month!

I am not going to write a long involved post about NaNoWriMo. I will instead say a few short things and give you links to long involved things that I have written about NaNoWriMo before.

Here are the short things:

  • The Night Circus did indeed begin life as a NaNoWriMo project. In fact, the *idea* for the circus turned up unexpectedly in a NaNo project the year before.
  • I have not participated properly myself since ’09, though I’d love to do it again sometime. I did a single day of solidarity last year and wrote 5k or so. I am considering taking a handful of days in November and seeing what I can manage.
  • I do not and will not ever understand the general anti-NaNo sentiment that crawls around the internet, hissing, this time of year. I understand not liking that people query NaNovels on Dec 1 (there’s a lot about that in one of the linked posts below) but the general dislike for it baffles me. It encourages people (like me) who might not have actually sat down to write otherwise to sit down and write.
  • To reiterate: I cannot fathom disparaging anything that encourages storytelling. Yeah, I bolded that, even.
  • To all of you 2012 NaNo-ers, I salute you. I wave flags of encouragement and wish you happy writing and delicious snacks that don’t make your fingers sticky for ease of typing and I hope you surprise yourself over the next 30 days.

And here are links to things:

Happiest of Happy Autumnal Novembers to everyone, because I am all about the happy-wishing lately.

[enter title here]

Monday, November 28th, 2011

This is what a book tour looks like in ephemera. In boarding passes and train tickets and accidentally retained visitor passes.

That’s not even all of it.

I am in something that I could probably call Tour Recovery Mode right now. It mostly involves looking at all the stuff that has been neglected in my absence, from several email inboxes to that not-a-novel-yet to the newly-home fluffy cats and not having the mental capacity to deal with any of it. I’m feeling really guilty about it, too, but it seriously took all my energy just to make myself gluten-free pancakes with strawberries this morning and I have been trying to write this blog post for three days. Make that four days, pancakes were yesterday. Also it’s dark at 4pm lately and that makes me extraordinarily sleepy.

Speaking of extraordinarily sleepy, Tessa is in love with the faux-fur blanket I got to warm up the sofa. Maybe because she so nicely color-coordinates with it.

I’m exhausted. I thought after a few days of sleeping in my own bed and not having to be on airplanes I’d feel better but I’m still exhausted. I think I feel worse, actually, that whole object in motion stays in motion thing, and that object in motion suddenly taken out of motion feels dizzy and nauseous.

I’m not sure what I really want to say in this post. I’m not sure I’m coherent enough to say anything, really. Here, let’s have some points in something resembling an unnumbered list, because I can totally not handle lists with numbers right now.

  • If you are waiting to hear back from me about anything, please be patient. I am only one person with a very overwhelmed brain.
  • My brain would be overwhelmed even if I were only dealing with book stuff and nothing else, but I have a lot of other things going on requiring brain time right now. A lot. I will spare you the gory details but I think the internet already knows I’m getting divorced and that’s just one of the non-book things. Life has a way of happening all at once.
  • I straighten my hair nearly every day and yet I still managed to burn my ear on my straightening iron this morning. This is likely indicative of how I’m doing right now.
  • I would really, really like to be able to write now that I’m a real writer and all, but it is baffling how many non-writing things are involved in being a writer. I did look at the novel-in-progress today and it didn’t look half-bad considering the unfinished messy draft stage it’s in, so that’s something.

Okay, I can’t handle any more list things. I think my attention span has taken a vacation with my short-term memory. I hope they’re somewhere warm with umbrella drinks.

I should probably wrap up this post before my typing skills and ability to form sentences decide to join them.

To those still NaNo-ing, I raise my coffee to you in a caffeine-driven salute for these, the Final Days. If you’ve already won: Congratulations!!! You rule. If you haven’t yet crossed the finish line: You can do it, you still have time! If you’ve already thrown in the towel: It’s okay, and remember you wrote more this month than you might have otherwise. Also, remember where you put that towel because a towel is the most massively useful thing you can have.

I am working on a proper post about writing-related things to cover some of the more frequently asked questions of late. It’s like a baby step toward having a proper FAQ. And I will have more tour musings eventually, possibly with photos if I can figure out how to get them off my old phone.

For now I am going to give up on figuring out what to title this rambling ramble of a post and actually post it.

on nanowrimo (again)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I know I’m late to the party getting on my NaNoWriMo soapbox, but I’ve been busy with revisions and most of my boxes are normally occupied by kittens, but since people are still talking about it and all the NaNo-ers are typing away, I figured I’d drag out the box.

I’m just going to sit on it, I’m not climbing up. I’m not really big on shouting about things, and it seems like a NaNo conversation should take place on a chat sort of level, so pull up a box and let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I’m making tea. Also, there’s an analogy about birdies later.

First, to everyone currently NaNo-ing: HURRAH FOR YOU! I wave little flags made of colored Post-Its in your general direction and urge you to get off my blog and go writewritewrite! Or you know, if you need a break, feel free to hang out and have tea, but writewritewrite later. You’re awesome for taking on a challenge, you’re awesome for sitting down and writing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And now, you may actually want to leave. Because I can’t guarantee you’re going to like what I have to say next.

Your novel will not be finished at the end of the month.

Yeah, I know. If you’re lucky you’ll have a THE END at the, well, end, and it’ll be a novel-esque document full of 50k+ words, but it won’t be a finished novel.

It’ll be a draft.

Drafts are wonderful, wonderful things, but they are not finished novels.

(On a related note, to quote da Vinci: Art is never finished, only abandoned. But that’s an entirely different post.)

I say this even though it’s been said far and wide over the internet already, because there are apparently people who don’t get it.

For those of us who do get it… here, have more tea. The haters get frustrating, don’t they?

Here’s the thing: if you want to spend your November writing novels or knitting socks or doing interpretive dance about novels about socks, that’s your business.

Don’t let haters on the internet make you think you’re wasting your time.

But be realistic about it. What gives NaNo a bad name, what gets the anti-NaNo people’s rantypants in a twist is the people who query agents on December 1st with drafts instead of novels.

Don’t do this. Please. It’s like spending all of November hand-feeding a little baby bird and then kicking it out of its nest with a combat boot come December.

Let the little novel birdie stay in the nest for awhile. Give it flying lessons. Tell it that it’s a pretty bird, even if it isn’t. It has the potential to be a pretty bird.

Make it a stronger bird. It might take weeks or it might take years, but it will fly better if you don’t kick it out of the nest too soon. If you kick it out of the nest before it’s ready, it’s going to need therapy and it’s not going to trust you anymore.

Now, you may be one of those magical people who writes amazing first drafts. You are rare. I kind of hate you. Your novel birdie is a phoenix. Watch out, its nest is probably on fire.

Most of us do not write phoenix novels. That’s the lovely thing about novels, and novel-writing. There are lots of different birds, lots of ways to reach the same goal. I’d like to think my novels are more like… oh, I don’t know. Let’s go with pygmy falcons. Cute but fierce. Really fluffy-looking at first. Probably not on fire.

Has this analogy gotten out of hand yet?

That’s okay, you don’t have to listen to me. But I feel vaguely qualified to sit on my soapbox and make bird analogies. I do have a novel I started during NaNoWriMo (’06) being published in the foreseeable future. I wrote a long, wandering draft of it over the span of two Novembers and then spent a very, very long time turning it into something book-shaped and polishing it before I let it out of its nest.

And I am still sitting here making it better. It just has a lot more people telling it what a pretty bird it is now.

So to the NaNo-ers: Happy NaNo-ing!

To the haters: Calm it down. Have some tea. Seriously. And if you’re going to claim NaNoWriMo is a waste of time, I apologize in advance for laughing at you.

thoughts on nanowrimo for 2010

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

This is, most likely, going to be the first time in eight years that I won’t be participating in National Novel Writing Month.

I might decide to be insane and do it anyway, because I have an unholy love of the word count meter, but I really shouldn’t. I’m going to have editor notes by then, I’ve already got 30k of a work-in-progress going (most of which I wrote in two weeks) and… yeah. I’m not going to have time.

I’m sad, mostly because NaNo is delicious, crazy fun when not at the omgIhatemynovel phase. And I will feel slightly guiltier about stocking up on sale-priced Hallowe’en candy come November 1st.

I do love the pressure of a deadline, but I get my own deadlines now.

And I think as much as I love the freedom to writewritewrite and revise later, I’ve grown rather fond of revising. I do still love drafting with wild abandon, most of the aforementioned WIP is driven by wild abandon and stockings with seams, but I’m trying to construct it thoughtfully at the same time.

I wrote 80k in 29 days last year. I re-read it a few months ago. A lot of it is better than I’d remembered. Some of it is worse. The structure needs adjusting, the main plot arc requires complete overhaul. I can do it, but it’ll be a lot of work. If I’d taken three months to draft it instead of 29 days, sure, it might be in better shape, but it probably wouldn’t have all of those NaNo-induced, caffeine-haze enhanced elements like the carnivorous mermaids.

I think most of you know that the circus started life as a NaNoWriMo novel. Technically, it started in a different NaNovel, as one of those caffeine-haze tangents. I wrote circus-related stuff for two years of NaNo, ending up with over 100k of rough draft.

There’s not a single page of that 100k that didn’t change during revisions. Large amounts of it were discarded entirely. But that’s where it started.

I’ve said this before, but I never planned for NaNo. I’d always go in with a handful of ideas and see where they took me. Like exploratory novelling. And I always found things that I wasn’t expecting.

But I can do that without the magical deadline now. I think I’m a better writer than I was during all those Novembers in ’05 & ’06 & ’07. I certainly know more about how I write, how I revise, and what works for me.

I’m not entirely sure I need to spend November ’10 excavating a new novel. I have a WIP that needs finishing, old NaNo drafts that need major surgery. And there’s that novel that’s actually getting published, too.

At some point I went from a November writer to a full-time writer, and that’s a good thing, even if it means I don’t have the time to run with the NaNo pack this year.

NaNoWriMo got me where I am right now. If it weren’t for the magic of the deadline and that marvelous little word count meter, I would probably still be one of those people who thinks about writing, someday, and never actually sits down to do it.

So I shall be cheering from the sidelines for all the NaNo-ers this year. And should I ever get to meet Chris Baty, I owe him a hug. And possibly some discount Hallowe’en candy.


Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Gather ’round, kidlets. Story time.

In 2003, I tried doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, because I’d always wanted to write but had never been good about sitting down and actually doing it. I had ideas in notebooks but nothing concrete.

I tried. I failed. Burnt out around 15k.

In 2004, I tried again. I made it to 50k that year. That novel is not a novel, it is a sprawling mess of post-apocalyptic… something.

In 2005, for NaNo #3, I had no plot but lots of atmosphere, and when I reached the 30k mark and had no idea where to go with it, I sent my characters to the circus.

In 2006, I spent NaNo working on that circus. I ended up with something interesting, but not novel-shaped.

In 2007, I did another 50k worth of work on the circus. In NaNo terms this is cheating. I’m sorry.

Throughout 2008 I took the 100k+ of circus… stuff and attempted to shape it into a novel.

I don’t know how many drafts it went through. Four, maybe? It started to have something resembling a proper shape in the beginning of 2009.

From 2008 to, well, now, I started learning about the publishing industry.

On June 2nd, 2009, I sent out my first batch of query letters.

I sent six queries out in that first batch. Within 20 minutes I had a partial request and a full request. I got another full request two hours later, two rejections the next day, and a third full request a few weeks later.

Ten days later those first two full request turned into rejections. The partial joined them in rejectionland soon after.

I sent out more queries. I got more requests. I got more rejections.

In August, I got a full request that turned into a phone call. A very nice phone call that I’m pretty sure I did nothing but stammer during, and was a request to rework the book almost entirely, but it was still an offer of representation.

I got in touch with the other agents who were still considering. Some of them passed. I had more phone calls. I think I stammered less in those.

I ended up not taking any offers at that point. I decided to revise independently, because everyone seemed to be saying different versions of the same thing.

I spent September and October of 2009 revising. I pushed around what I had. I tried to have more *stuff* happen. I polished it. I wrapped it up in pretty bows.

I sent it back to the three agents who wanted to see it.

More phone calls. More e-mails. All three of them said different versions of “well… not there yet.”

So I sighed. I ate a lot of chocolate. I wrote a completely different story for NaNo ’09. I took December off.

In January of 2010, I checked into the Revisionland Hotel.

I tore everything apart. I changed the format. I changed the plot. Well, I changed what little plot there was into an actual plot. I took over 25k out and put other stuff in. I sent it to old beta readers and new beta readers. I changed it some more.

I sent it back to agents two weeks ago.

Last week I had one offer of representation.

On Monday I had three.

I thought about it. A lot. I was extremely lucky to have three wonderful agents spending their time on me and my work, offering wonderful advice throughout this process.

In the end I signed with the same agent I had that very first stammering phone call with back in August.

I am now represented by Richard Pine of InkWell Management.

Almost exactly a year after I started querying.

the end.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Finished my NaNoWriMo novel draft. Final tally: 80,154.

I think it’s pretty good. I know it’s better now than it was around the 20k mark or so. I’m pretty sure I want to very heavily revise it, including possibly splitting the narrative POV, but that can wait. It’s all rough around the edges but there’s something in there to shine up and make pretty.

For now, though, it’s going to sit for a few weeks before I pick it back up and read it all the way through. I’ll miss it, I think. It’s the most I’ve ever written in a month so I’ve spent several hours a day with these characters so it will be odd to not have to follow them around tomorrow.

So, note for the ages: I finished the very first draft of THEREAFTER on Sunday, November 29th, 2009. We’ll see where it goes from here.

And since I shared my favorite Rapunzel pic found in researching stages earlier, here’s my favorite Little Red Riding Hood, by John Everett Millais:



Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Well, 51,132. And I have at least 20, possibly 30 more before the end will roll around. Going to try to get it done before December.

Bucket remains unimpressed.

unimpressed bucket

november is for writing

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Clearly, I fail at blogging during NaNo. This is probably not that surprising.

But now there are pretty little wordcount widgets, look!

Currently at 36k. Now have five different fairy tales (Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Six Swans, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, & Bluebeard) incorporated and twisted around into knots. I’m guessing that this draft will round out around 75k, and I’m hoping I can get that done this month. I already have notes for things I want to change, of course.

And now, because I know y’all (& by y’all, I mean the approximately three people who read this regularly. Hi Paul!) are interested, a Great Agent Search update:

At the end of October I sent my revised manuscript back to the three agents who wanted to see it, and within two weeks I had responses & feedback from all three of them.

And… I get to go back to revisionland. Everyone say yay!

It’s really not that bad. I think this time I have a much clearer idea of what needs to happen and a slightly vaguer but still pretty decent idea of how to do that.

The unfortunate part is that it’s going to involve completely dismantling and reworking what I have. And I have no idea how long that will take. I’m hoping to do some structural outlining/planning during December and then start in on the new draft in January.

And when that revision is completed and beta’d and revised again, all three agents want to see it again. So it seems like there’s a good novel in there somewhere. I just need to figure out how to write it.

But other than occasional jotting down of notes & ideas I’m trying not to think about it too much at the moment. I have NaNoing to do. And the circus can wait while I’m busy wandering around my war-torn fairy tale mashup of a NaNovel. I am all Once Upon a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After at the moment.

Here, have my favorite illustration of Rapunzel that I’ve stumbled upon in researching:


Rapunzel by Isobel Lilian Gloag