Writing (Again) as NaNo Begins (Again)

Tomorrow is November 1st, which to many writers means the kickoff of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), when one tries to write a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. Who’s participating this year?

Last fall was my first attempt at the challenge. I’ve never been an outliner, but I did a lot of prep work leading up to day one, studied my characters, discovered each backstory, and then had what I felt was a successful month of writing. I did additional work in the months that followed, and by then had almost 37k words. A solid place to find my draft, I thought. My goal at that point was to plug away, finish and edit and seek beta readers and edit more and polish and, hopefully, if all went well, begin querying the book to agents by the end of 2015. (A pretty lofty intention, I know, but you’ve got to work toward something, right?)

But in the spring I decided to lay my WIP aside. Single motherhood, plans to move my family, and a significant career shift that required months of coursework and exams — all in addition to a full-time day job — left little choice but to put the writing on hold. I told myself I’d get back to it once all the changes had shaken down.

That time is now. We’re settled into our new home (and loving it), I’m a month into my new day job (and loving it), and so no time like the present to throw myself into that project once again. Just as NaNo 2015 kicks off!

#amwriting #fiction #NaNo2015

Calling It Good

I made a decision last night: I’m calling an end to my dogged push for more words.

It’s day 26 of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m at a count of 34,983. I’m about 15,000 shy of the 50,000 goal. But you know what? I’m incredibly happy with that. It’s roughly 35k words more than I had this time last month, and that is nothing to sneeze at. Am I right?

As for my novel-in-progress, I’ve come to that place writers meet—about two-thirds to three-quarters through the manuscript—where there’s a definitive lull, both in plot and pacing. It’s what’s slowed me down the last week. (I do know where I want my characters’ stories to end, I’m just not sure yet how to pull it all together.)



But I know I have some solid substance, and the better part of a story line to work with, so I’m ready to start revisions. No more forcing the words just for the sake of accumulating them. I fear that without taking an opportunity to assess what I already have, if I don’t begin revising, I won’t be able to accurately gauge what’s needed to flesh out the book, let alone conclude it.

Writing fast has benefited me, it’s for sure, but the draft lacks everything. Full and realistic characterization. Narration. POV and tense consistency. Cohesion. My voice, my style—I’m so ready to start making this story mine. And I’ve got to work on all of this sooner rather than later, or I’ll find myself aimless, with no sense for what direction to turn first.

Don’t count me out entirely. I will continue to write even through the last few days of this month’s challenge, and so my word count will keep growing, albeit at a slower speed. I’m just not going to strain myself for 15,000 more words. I can’t be sure they’d suit my novel, so I suspect that at this point the work would be wasted effort. Effort better put toward edits.

In the meantime I’m going to have a really fantastic Thanksgiving.

I’m going to celebrate the work I’ve already done.

And I’m going to gear up for the work that still remains, which I’m super-eager to dig into.

Woman Writing as Man

I am a thirty-six year old woman—one whose focus in the past has been women’s fictionand I am writing a novel with a protagonist who is a twenty-eight year old man.


My only experience writing from a man’s POV is a single vignette, which can be found at Something She Wrote.

At fewer than 300 words, I didn’t have to do too much diving into the depths of that character. He didn’t even have a name. But with Deke, the main character in my current WIP, the characterization ahead is significant.

More than identity, unique voice, relatability, all imperative with any and every character, suddenly there is extra responsibility in capturing a manly persona, inflection, masculine mannerisms, and the inner workings of a dude.

That makes me nervous. Can I do it?

But I see another side, too. Man and woman, we both live the human condition. We feel, have needs, are vulnerable. We work, love, fear, hurt, rejoice. There are so many parallels, maybe that we live and breathe much the same is enough to render gender an irrelevant aside in fiction.

Maybe writing a character who is realistic and compelling is enough, regardless of whether male or female. Do you think?

Either way, I’m putting limited thought into it for now, since I’m working on my so-rough first draft, but as you can tell it’s on my mind. I can’t help but think I’ll have to get Deke’s being a man just right through revisions, or the whole manuscript will be moot. I guess I’ll just have to trust myself—and him—through this process.

What are your thoughts on writing from the opposite sex’s perspective?

What books have you read which you loved despite the gender POV difference, or conversely (ie. done poorly), in which it was so noticeable it was distracting?

*Deke’s likeness, at right above, is an image from freedigitalphotos.net. I’ve used it for my NaNoWriMo mock cover. And yep, that’s me on the left.

On Writing – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Today marks a fifth of the way through National Novel Writing Month for participating writers. Congrats to all who are meeting their goals! And to those who may feel a struggle, just remember, any progress means success.

This challenge has broken the dam for me. Words are flooding and as of this morning I’m at a 12,801 count, which is above the quota for day six.

I have surprised myself! Turns out I can write fast, and I can write messy. I never knew that before, having been so particular about editing as I go. All that did was set me up for failure, I see now, because I was demanding nothing less than perfection from the first sentence. (And let’s face it, that’s not possible.) I always critiqued myself so harshly.


I love vintage typewriters and have a few of my own, though I work using my laptop. [freedigitalphotos.net]

Well, not anymore. Now I’m learning to write down the bones.* I’m laying out the skeleton. Basic scenes (no fluff), a lot of dialogue (little narration, for now), telling (not showing, yet). Structure and direction.

I can’t let myself focus on verbiage, typos and mechanics, plot fusion, the fleshing out of characters. What’s magical is that I don’t even want to. I’m aiming for that 50k. I just want to get the rudimentary story out, and I want to do it posthaste. (The real work — and fun! — will come later, and I’m eager to get there.)

Fortunately, I came into this project having outlined more than ever before. I prepped with determination. I know my characters well, and where the manuscript will take each of them, that’s lending to my ability to write fast.

I also have super encouragers, and my two daughters are giving me regular pep talks, as well as checking in on my progress. Many times a day. With sass. It’s helpful. And adorable, too.

So this NaNo thing? I’m doing it. I’m doing it well!

I’d just needed to get out of my own way first.

*Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

NaNoWriMo Musings

TWO days and the madness begins.

National Novel Writing Month.

I’m pretty anxious about this, my first annual attempt. 50,000 words toward a book manuscript in 30 days is a tall order. (That breaks down into about 1667 words per day.) Especially for someone — ME — who is a perfectionist with her words, and mechanics, and formatting, and prefers to painstakingly edit as she goes. To do NaNo with any measurable success, to consider that you’ve met the challenge, you’ve got to write fast and write messy. I hope I can do it.

But you know, squaring off with the anxiety are excitement and expectation. I think I can do it.

I think it will be good for me, too.

For a few years now I’ve let other things come before my writing. (And that’s exactly what I needed to do, so I don’t regret it.) Working full-time while parenting and running a household alone takes a lot. I’ve also had some significant personal hurdles to train and condition myself for, which took a lot of mental space and energy, as well as many months’ time and dedication. (The race is over now, by the way. And I medaled in gold.)

I feel like the timing of this year’s NaNo — as related to where my focus and readiness rest — is perfect, if not intended, for me.

I believe this is the next logical step for me: committing to this challenge, putting in the hard work, and proving to myself that I can do it — just like I did with those personal hurdles, and have done as a single mom and sole breadwinner the last three years.

I’ve already done the hardest stuff.

So, NaNo 2014? You’re mine.

NaNo 2014: No Whammies!

take 3

Did you know the NaNo pros say that creating a cover for your project increases your chances of completing the challenge by 60%? (mock cover/JDQ)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) is an annual writer’s challenge for which the goal is to write a 50,000-word novel during the 30 days of November. You set perfectionism aside and just write, messy, fast. You git ‘er done. It’s about increasing your word count, above all else. (The real work begins after, when you’ve got to go back and make sense of everything.)

I’ve never participated, the primary reason being that I always felt I’d be setting myself up for failure (I’m big on the whole perfectionism thing). But this year I’m ready. I’d started a new WIP over the summer months, though am less than a chapter in (so I don’t feel like I’m cheating with a head start), and recently have been fleshing out each of the character bios, as well as the plot and sub-plots. Still a bit of outlining to do in preparation of November 1st, but I’m poised and ready to hit this challenge head on.

Here’s my first attempt at a synopsis, which I share along with a cover mock-up for purposes of self-motivation and accountability:

Deke Johnson lives a quiet and calm life, carefully controlled, just the way he likes it: Stress-free. But when his irresponsible sister gets pregnant, their mom’s hoarding reaches a dangerous extreme, and an ex-girlfriend returns with not one but two life-altering surprises, Deke must make sense of the destruction around him and find his way back to peaceful existence. (literary fiction) Read an excerpt in THIS POST.

If you’re interested in connecting at NaNo, I’m jdwrites. Good luck to all who are participating!

image credit: freedigitalphotos.net