A Writing Year In Review: 2015

Ah, another November, another writing year complete.

What was accomplished this year?  A lot less than I was hoping for.  In fact, this was a year full of frustrations.  I went in feeling like I was on the tipping point of Getting Somewhere.  And I am Not Really Anywhere At All Special.

Which is not to say that I went backwards.  I didn’t do that, despite feeling like I did.  It’s actually very hard to move backwards in writing.  Several novels are a lot longer and have a much more focused direction than when I started.   And I did accomplish my goal of getting more editing done. I completed drafts of a novel, a novella, and a short story.  None of which accomplished what I want (the novel especially, though now that it’s bust, I have finally realized what I actually need to do to fix it, which involves basically turning it into a novella).

But writing is ever a process.  Even if one work doesn’t do what you want it to, you learn in the process of doing what does and doesn’t work.  I’ve had a couple of near misses on a work that’s actually rather old at this point.  I have hope that means I can stop missing with something that’s a little more recent.  Next year, we try some more daring stuff and if we end up fast first in failure, well, at least the effort will have been made.

As for Nano, same rules as last year.  Most of my focus will try to be on Itzie and Rodney’s second novel, but anything that’s officially on the project list may get worked on this November.  After the October I had, I feel like that’s a more than fair.

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NaNo 2014 Wrap Up

So, it’s another year, another graph.

nano2014graph

See that lovely dip in the middle? I call that the chasm of hell. It was Not A Good Week (Or So). Overall, it was a bit tough for a Nano. I had a lot of trouble finding focus. The ideas were there and the words came, but only after a lot of failed attempts to corral myself and a great deal of rampant internet clicking. It’s been that way since mid-October and I think it’s mostly stress related.

On the bright side, WORDS! They did happen, a whole 50k and on only three different stories! Considering the three stories are the major three novels I’ve got in the works, I feel pretty good about that.

Breakdown by Percentage:
The Crowned Act: 36% (18,289 words added)
Itzie and Rodney II: 37% (19,201 words added)
Thrall: 27% (13,635 words added)

The amusing thing is that all three works are now roughly the same length. Here’s their current word count:
The Crowned Act: 38,248 words
Itzie and Rodney II: 35,577 words
Thrall: 37,762 words

I started strongest on The Crowned Act, which is why it got to be my title novel (and also, it has the best title out of all three major works this month). However, that flurry of words died off by the end of the month. Still got a lot of words to it, but I added a subplot that I’m questioning. Is it a good subplot? A useful subplot? Have I lost sight of the heart of the book? What was the heart of the book anyway? At the moment, I can’t tell if I’ve actually lost my direction or if I’m just suffering a terrible case of Second Book Second Guessing. Part of me suggests continuing recklessly. Part of me suggests doing revisions on book one before I go further. Mostly, I’m not worrying about it and will circle back to the work when I’m ready. I’ve noticed I cycle through projects roughly every two to three weeks, so I know I’ll be back to this one later.

Itzie and Rodney’s second novel had the least words going into it and got the most words added. While the writing has been sprawling and will need some serious focus in drafting, I’m pleased with how it is going. I have finally found a solid plot for it. Which is good because I tried three or four different plots before finding the one that actually seems to be the right shaped and themed plot for book two. I have mentioned, right, that second books are apparently way harder than first books? Because they are.

Thrall was worked on mostly towards the end of the month and is still getting most of my focus. It has hit its stride and is growing rapidly. It… also involves bondage and I sort of wrote a scene about bondage on an airplane and I think the people sitting in the row with me noticed.

So yeah. Thank you, Thrall, thank you NaNoWriMo. Because of you, I am now That Person on the plane. The one writing BDSM where anyone could see.

GOOD JOB SELF. And with that thought, I close out November.

The (Mostly) Post Nano Blitz

So I’ve been sitting around, trying to figure out why my goals are now that Nano is wrapping up. (Not actually done, but only a thousand words and all evening to do that, with the promise of sake at the end.) I’ve got a handful of things I want to tackle next year, including getting better at editing, continuing to finish things, getting something published (even self pub’d), and a project that will hopefully get more activity up in the blog.

But before all of that, I’m thinking about what I want to do in December. Just December. I don’t want to set a big word count goal, as A) Just did one and B) Holidays, fuck them. But I will feel better if I give myself some sort of goal and it gets me in the habit of aiming for things to accomplish. Plus, I have one really clear goal that should have been accomplished already and has not been.

The goal? Finish spot checking the first few chapters Itzie and Rodney’s novel, then start tossing it at agents/publishers.

However, I’ve got some mixed feelings on this goal. I mean, obviously, I am doing it. It is the Next Step In the Process. However, this means I’m going to be tossing this bad boy around in the post Nano blitz, where well intentioned and gleeful writers throw their unpolished manuscript at every agent, publishing house, and editor in the area.

The Pros: The novel has actually been revised! Maybe it’ll get some notice as standing out against all of those other novels, like a polished diamond amongst river rocks. A shining gem of decent grammar and minimal typos, fully fleshed and a delight after reading so many raw, bleeding manuscripts.

The Cons: My novel will be one in a sea of slush that editors will have to slog through to find. When they get to my novel, they are guaranteed to be cynical already. They will hate everything. Does my novel have the ability and skill to overcome that level of hatred? Does anything?

Anyway, those are my brief editing thoughts this evening. Back to the grind. *Salutes*

White Rabbit: Topaz Edition

HAPPY WRITING NEW YEAR! Er, well, yesterday.

You will not be seeing me again until December.  I can pretty much say that with certainty, given my track record of blogs and the fact that, well, you know. Nano.

Anyway, last year was generally a success. The goal was four major projects and I accomplished three major projects and one short story. And since I never write short stories, I’m counting that as a success. As well as editing one novel and completing first drafts of two others, I slapped down words on a whole bunch of projects. I had Plot Wars with two novels when I realized what I was writing was not part of those novels, but those battles have been resolved with a new direction for said two novels and thoughts for pursuing later books in the series. Over all, a fairly productive writing year.

The goal for this next writing year is going to be getting a lot of things edited and get a number of things to the point where I wouldn’t be ashamed if the public read them. I’ll likely try expanding on this next month.

So, what am I doing for Nano this year? Which project am I tackling?

Any of them that I want. I have a list of ‘active’ projects and I am allowed to add words to any of them. I am not allowed to write random scenes that aren’t part of anything and I’m strongly discouraged from jumping around chronologically. I have the Crowned Act listed on my Nano page and that is tentatively the one I will be focusing on most. However, any of my major projects are allowable, so that I end with 50k new words on my projects by the end of the month.

Anyway, this blog is wasting words I could be putting on my Nano! I had best go put my nose to the grindstone. Or. Get brunch. One of the two.

Aside

In Which Sometimes Just Doing Something Causes Improvement

Welp, another year, another Nano.  Let’s get that graph up and be horribly embarrassed by my slacking—

Image

…Huh. Oh. Well.  I guess that’s not embarrassing after all.  In fact, it may even be nearing levels of respectable for a Nano graph. You’d think I’m getting better at this writing thing or something, wouldn’t you?

….Weird.

More immediately, did I succeed in my goal of writing an entire novel in a month?

Nope, not even close!  50k this month, nearly 70k total and I am nowhere near the end.  And surprisingly, I’m not terribly crushed or disappointed by this.

The reason being, it turns out that I’m not writing an 80k novel.  Or even a 100k novel.  Sure, I’m almost 70k into the novel, but unlike last year, I don’t feel off track.  The plot is moving forward slowly, but consistently.  Unlike last year, where I dithered around for half of my Nano word count before I finally jumped into the plot, everything I’ve written has moved things forward and dropped useful information.  Not to say that there isn’t fat that will need trimming when it comes time to edit. Oh my yes, there will be stuff to trim.  Internal exposition, repetitive descriptors, things that I took three hundred words to say that could be said much more neatly and clearly in about fifty.  But that’s what editing is for.  And even with that excess baggage, I’ve still got a long novel on my hand.

Basically, this book is shaping up to be one of those sprawling fantasy epics with ridiculous amount of details in bizarre areas that is (I hope) interesting and involving anyway. Most people who know me well, when I mentioned this have responded with ‘honestly I’m surprised you didn’t write one of these sooner.’  And it is true, I’m fond of that style of novel, so no surprise I’m writing one.  With a lot of gay subtext.

My estimate at this point is somewhere around 120k worth of words before I hit the end.  We’ll see how soon I get that massive chunk of novel done, as it is not the only project I want to work on this year. I’ve got a novel I rather desperately want to get edited and other novels that paw at me for attention. But I’ve found that if I have a default project I’m supposed to be working on, things go better for my focus.

Things I Learned:

  • Everything I write is going to be longer than I think it is when I start.  I just need to start accepting this about what I write. I write long things.  Short things are not beyond my grasp, but they sure aren’t what I tend towards naturally.
  • I’m not much pleased with my current job, but in spite of that, the work/life balance is not bad right now.  The amount of hours I work and (more importantly) the times I work seem to produced a schedule that made Nano fairly easy this year.  Not free of challenges or stress, but better than it has been.  And this brings me to the next point…
  • Which is the big one.  I have GOT to start writing more.  I don’t mean what I did last month, because that was fine. I mean in general.  I’m not sure I can keep a Nano pace up all of the time, but my current standard is 750 words per day. And I can and will do better than that.

Which leads me to plans for the rest of the year.  We’re starting with a goal of a thousand word per day for the month of December, as I am, again, traveling and holidays and other craziness abounds.  But I want a thousand words a day as a minimum, for all days when I’m not busy editing, because I need to keep that in my schedule. Also in my schedule, blogging more regularly, which may be the biggest challenge yet.

We’ll see what happens.  Until then, hope everyone had a good November and the rest of your writing year, whenever it starts, goes equally well.

A New Year, A New Blog Entry

Happy Halloween!  It’s a gorgeous fall day with eerie skittering leaves everywhere.  There’s a giant bowl of candy waiting to be eaten and I am dressed as a mobster and the itinerants in the park asked me to dance.  No, I’m… not really sure what that last one means either.

It is also the eve of a new year.  A new Writing Year, at any rate.

When you’re little, the only year that counts as an ‘official’ year is the calendar year.  The one that start January 1st and ends December 31st.  But as you get older, you realize that there are a lot places the year could start.  The Chinese New Year isn’t in the same place.  Nor is the Jewish New Year and that one doesn’t even always start in the same place every year, at least if you’re tracking it by the Julian calendar.

In fact, as a kid, you’re already dancing to another schedule.  The School Year, which starts over in September and this is WAY more important to you than January 1st will ever be.  And then you get to be an adult and you discover FISCAL years, which can literally start and stop in any place, so long as its the same place every year.  The United States government starts its fiscal year in October of all places.

Eventually, you figure out that the new year is pretty arbitrary as a date.  You probably will get the first off of work, which is nice, but the holiday itself only ever means as much as you want it to.  Your own life will be tracked by dates that mean more to you personally.  Religious holidays, birthdays, anniversaries.  You set your own calendar, even if you add in drinking heavily every December 31st to the agenda.

For years, I’ve joked that the writing year started with Nano.  This year, I decided that, you know what?  I’m making this official.  My Writing Year starts on November 1st.  Which means its time to discuss how the last year went and plans for the new year.

Aaaaand, well, honestly, last year wasn’t a great year for writing for me.  Thing happened, such as moving.  And a large quantity of being less useful than I really wanted to be.  Still, accomplished a few things.  Got one novel through a third draft phase, which is a landmark for me.  That, unfortunately, was the most I got accomplished for novels.  My Nano last year, while very informative, will probably need to be completely restarted from scratch now that I have hashed out my direction for that story a little better.  I started a number of novels and have ideas for a number more.  But other than one third draft, progress was minimal this last year.

Also, did not learn how to write short stories.  May have figured out novellas, though!  I wrote another one of those, finished that up just this last month.  So, this year hasn’t been a waste, things got written, things got learned.  But just not as productive as I want.

Which leads me to my plans for this next year.  The goal is to get four major projects done.  One per quarter, though with the year starting in November, I’ve completely screwed myself on tracking things by quarter. 

What counts as a major project?  A draft (first, second, fifteenth, doesn’t matter) of something novella length or up.  Because I have a few novellas I’d love to clean up, even if those are sort of dead ends for publishing at this point in my career (as I’m not interested in self publishing right now).  And I want to build in some amount of forgiveness for myself, because trying for this is a goal insanely higher than any I’ve set for myself.

Which projects am I thinking?

Well, to start with, there’s the novel I’m writing for Nano this year.  The goal is to actually try and finish the thing in a month, though I did cheat and am going into it with about 20k pre-written.  With the 50k of Nano, that puts me up to 70k, which is still short for a novel of adult fiction.  But Freddy Normal Is Dead was finished at 60k in its first draft and is now around 90k, so the length of first drafts can and does change radically when they move to new territory. 

Though, I’ll be honest.  The novel I’m working on for Nano this year?  It embarrasses me so.  On some levels, it’s a perfectly respectable little high fantasy.  On other levels, it’s a horrible yaoi monstrosity and help help why am I writing this?

*Cough*  So, anyway, after Nano, I really want to get The Cat That Wouldn’t Die through a second draft.  It’s kind of one of my favorites and I still have high hopes for it, if I can ever get it edited to something decent.  Freddy Normal Is Dead will also need another draft, though I’m hoping that will be a faster redraft as it’s more focused on areas I know need work or will be pointed out to me.

Put like that, there’s three of the four major projects right there.  Looks less scary when put like that, but I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when I’m actually trying to edit and write shit. 

And for the fourth project?  We’ll find out.  Exploration is always the best part of writing.