Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – A Big Hot Mess

Cue the trumpets, toss the confetti, and raise your glass, it’s time to celebrate the rapidly approaching end of NaNo.

About an hour ago I typed my two favorite words – “The End” – and uploaded my final word count and manuscript for validation.  As a NaNo “winner”, I have the lovely graphic you see over to the left and a 50,007 word manuscript that can best be described as “a big hot mess.”

My NaNo got off to a slow start this year (I may have slept through a few writing sessions), and there have been a few days with less than stellar word counts, but being off work last week gave me a chance to really focus on writing and get a large number of words on the page that can probably best be described as “quantity” rather than “quality.”  There are most certainly plot holes you could drive a truck through, and it’s littered with notes like “something needs to happen here,” but the draft is done.

Yay!

Once the excitement of finishing the draft cools, it’s time to think about what to do next. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – Gaining Momentum

As November continues its rapid race toward December, NaNo has finished its third week, which means there are many new stories out there at about the 35,000+ word mark.

That’s awesome!  It also means that there are only about 15,000 more words to go to reach the magic 50,000 end-of-month goal.

I love this part in the process (when I haven’t spent the last week or so staring at a blank screen).  After the excitement of the first week and the slowdown of the second, there tends to be a marked change in my writing once I’ve gotten over that 30,000 word point.  After that, for better or worse, the story seems to gain momentum and race forward on its own.

The first act of my story ended at around 28,000 words, so I won’t have a completed book at the 50,000 word mark, and what I will have is going to need some definite work (seriously, you can probably see the plot-holes from space), but I’ll have made a real start at getting this story out of my head and on to the page, so that’s a good thing. Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNo Progress Report – Week 1

National Novel Writing Month kicked off just a week ago and, according to the handy graphic on the NaNo website, writers in nearby San Francisco have already written over 4.5 million words.

Multiply that by all the participating writers in all the participating cities around the world and that’s an amazing amount of writing and an amazing number of stories that didn’t even exist a mere week ago.

I’d love to say that my own NaNo experience was off to a stellar start this year, but that would be an extreme work of fiction, and not the good kind.

In reality, as you might guess from the graphic in this post, my NaNo got off to a rather slow start.  Three days of long hours at the day job coupled with at least one evening when I fell asleep in the midst of dinner made hitting the daily 1,667 word count a dream rather than a reality. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Big Ball of Paint

With National Novel Writing Month about to start (or having just started, depending on when you read this post), a recent “Why I NaNoWriMo” post caught my eye yesterday when perusing my news feed.

The author has, in his own words:

“. . . completed NaNoWriMo three times, and have started and failed more times than I’d like to remember.”

I always like hearing about folks who have made it through NaNoWriMo and emerged with a completed book; better yet, one that has been released into the wild for others to purchase and enjoy.

It makes it seem like 50,000 words in 30 days might actually be a reasonable goal.

What really caught my attention about this particular post though has more to do with who wrote it than it does with the content.  Years ago, when I taught creative writing as part of the after-school program at my son’s grammar school, the author of the aforementioned post was one of my students.   I love that he’s continued in his creative pursuits and has moved from a photo-copied spiral bound book of crayon illustrated stories to an actual book available for purchase on Amazon. Continue reading

Jilly: Seeking Playlist Recommendations

Anybody up for a playlist recommendation or two? I’d truly appreciate it. 😉

It’s only two weeks since I posted my plan for the rest of the year, and I’ve already made a significant change. I sent off Alexis Book 1 to be edited, (yay!), but when I sat down to start work on the prequel, I realized that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell…not yet, anyway.

The prequel is the story of Alexis’s parents, Daire and Annis. It explains how Annis ends up running for her life, carrying little more than her unborn child and the most powerful jewel in the history of Caldermor. But, but, but… that story stems directly from Daire’s failure to secure the hand in marriage of a very different woman. All the characters from the debacle are major players in Alexis’s story, and I’ll need a novella to give away next year when I finally hit ‘publish,’ so I decided to write Kiran and Christal’s story now, and (hopefully) let the momentum carry Daire and me into the prequel.

I know where the novella is set (Darrochar, the kingdom adjoining Caldermor). I know how it ends, and I know the main characters. I’ve made a few pages of notes, but I need a playlist to really get my imagination working.

The story so far:

  • One arranged political marriage;
  • One clever, rich, handsome, spoiled princeling who’s too busy having a good time to stand up to his ambitious, power-mad mother;
  • One elegant, clever princess, determined not to waste her life and talents on a golden loser.
  • One scheming, murderous Princess Dowager (the mother-in-law from hell);
  • One plainspoken, upstanding career soldier turned princely bodyguard-slash-advisor who’s wondering what the hell he’s let himself in for.
  • Fighting (physical and metaphorical), in-fighting, hard truths told, harder lessons learned, risking all, expecting to lose all and (spoiler alert!) somehow the good guys emerge triumphant.

I’ll add to the list as I build up the story, but here’s my first stab at a few tunes: Continue reading

Michaeline: Cosmic Horror and Dread Cthulhu

Polish political poster featuring a Cthulhu in a suit carrying mystical paperwork.

Cthulhu is here. Artists in a lot of different countries have begun to think, “Why choose the Lesser Evil?” (Image via Wikimedia Commons; Wikipedia credits the drawing to Wieksze Zlo, and says it was photographed by Jakub Halun)

Cthulhu is here.

*Warning: here be spoilers. Do yourself a favor and take an hour or two to read the original short story, “Call of Cthulhu”. You may not enjoy it, but at the very least, you’ll be familiar with an important piece of pop currency. NB: I’ve only read the story this week myself, and haven’t read anything in associated universes. So, any opinions I have may be under-funded in the Cthulhu Canonical Knowledge department. Feel free to correct me, argue with me, or spoil me.

Last week, Jennifer Crusie posted a piece about the importance of Cthulhu to her current work-in-progress, and something tapped into my own deep anxiety and sense of cosmic horror.

Cthulhu is here.

Or at least, it’s an active force in popular culture, and it probably always has been. H.P. Lovecraft just identified it and shaped it into a story to wrestle with his own personal problems, and wrote that story in such a way that many people can use the idea to wrestle with their own unreasonable dread.

At the heart of Cthulhu is a conspiracy about something that can’t be Continue reading

Jilly: Tips for Creative Problem Solving

What do you do when you’re chewing on a problem, any problem, and you can’t seem to find your way to an answer?

I’m just back from a routine trip to visit my mum in Derbyshire. The return journey involves a minimum of six hours driving, closer to eight hours this weekend. It almost always results in some brainwave, useful insight about my WIP, or some other problem if Real Life is getting in the way of my writing.

I don’t consciously use my driving time to problem solve—I try to keep my eyes on the road and my wits about me—but somehow when my surface concentration is fully occupied watching the traffic, the deeper levels of my mind feel free to work on knottier problems.

I write sequentially, which means that I use each scene I write to provide the impetus for the next one. The good thing about my process is that the story grows organically. The downside is that when I hit a problem, I grind to a halt and spin my wheels. I can’t move forward until I resolve it.

Over the last few years I’ve tried various tactics to rescue myself when I get stuck. Here are a selection of the ones which work best for me, though your mileage may vary. Continue reading