happy nanowrimo!

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]

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)

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

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.


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.

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: